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New scheme to ensure food production remains primary purpose of farming

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The government's update to the Sustainable Farming Incentive will incentivise land use for the production of food. Image: Getty, Justin Paget
The government's update to the Sustainable Farming Incentive will incentivise land use for the production of food. Image: Getty, Justin Paget

Related tags Agriculture

The UK Government is to introduce measures to ensure food production remains the primary purpose of farming.

These measures, under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), will limit the amount of land farmers can take out of productive actions.

Under the changes, SFI applicants will only be able to put 25% of their land into six SFI actions that take land out of direct food production – see box below.

While the six actions will continue to play a role in supporting sustainable food production, they were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of the farm – something the new measures promised to protect.

Primary purpose

Commenting on the announcement, farming minister Mark Spencer said: “Food production is the primary purpose of farming and today we are taking action to clarify this principle.  

“The six actions we are capping were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of land, and these changes will help to maintain this intention and continue our commitment to maintain domestic food production.” 

Limited evidence to date has been presented of farmers entering large amounts of their land into actions that take away food production, but there have been some cases of these actions being used more than intended in a small number of cases.

Maximum flexibility

The scheme has been designed to have maximum flexibility and to be simple to apply for. However, the government has said it would learn and adapt as new information became available – this in turn led to the need to put in place some targeted restrictions.  

The new measures introduced to the SFI formed part of the government's commitment to protect food security and ensure the UK continues to produce at least 60% of the food we consume.

To support these efforts, it planned to include a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index to capture and present the data needed to monitor levels of food security, as well as a commitment to hold the Farm to Fork Summit annually.

Meanwhile, several figures from throughout the British food supply chain met in Hertfordshire on 20 March 2024 to discuss how public sector providers can better work together with farmers and food producers.

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