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Our Plan to Back British Farmers

Volume 745: debated on Tuesday 20 February 2024

Farming in England is going through the biggest change in a generation. The bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy disproportionately rewarded the largest landowners and held back smaller farmers, while delivering little for food productivity or the environment. The Government’s new schemes are investing in the foundations of food security, environmental sustainability and profitable farm businesses. Building on the largest ever update to our schemes announced in January, today we are setting out the next steps to deliver our plan to back British farmers.

Firstly, the Government will be taking further action to invest in sustainable, resilient farm businesses. In September 2023 we introduced the management payment to cover the administrative costs of entering our schemes. This has helped a record number of small farmers to sign up. We will be doubling that payment to up to £2,000 in the first year of each agreement, for agreements starting before March 2025, and extending it to countryside stewardship mid-tier. This means that the 11,000 farmers in England already in SFI will receive that top-up this spring.

We are also launching the largest ever grant offer, totalling £427 million. This invests £220 million in productivity and innovation in farming, £116 million in slurry infrastructure, and £91 million in improving the health and welfare of our farmed animals. The first of these schemes is an enhanced £70 million round of the successful farming equipment and technology fund, and we will also be increasing the currently open improving farming productivity fund from £30 million to £50 million —which covers robotics, automation and rooftop solar to build on-farm energy security.

We will improve the service and support being offered to farmers and cut planning red tape which currently stands in the way of farm diversification. We will lay the legislation to deliver that in April so that more farms in England can introduce farm shops or outside sports venues. We will continue to improve Government services with better digital infrastructure that is easier and faster to use. We will introduce more rolling application windows and make payments on time. In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the importance of farming mental health and we will be making up to £500,000 available to three charity partners to deliver projects that support mental health in the farming sector.

We are also strengthening our food security, which is a vital part of our national security. We will introduce a yearly food security index to underpin the Government’s three-yearly food security report. This will be made statutory when parliamentary time allows. The index will present the key data and analysis needed to monitor how we are maintaining our current levels of self-sufficiency and overall food security. We expect this to be UK-wide and will work to achieve this, strengthening accountability across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. We will publish the first draft during the second UK Farm to Fork Summit this spring, which will be an annual event.

We are also supporting farmers to utilise more of their produce and reduce food waste at the farm gate. We will be launching a £15 million fund, available directly to farmers or the redistribution sector working with farmers, to redistribute surplus food at the farm gate which cannot currently be used commercially. We are also committed to building fairness in the supply chain and will be laying the regulations for the dairy sector and conducting the Government’s next review for poultry.

Supporting farmers, improving our approach, and strengthening food security—this is our plan. We are sticking to it, to deliver a resilient and profitable farming sector which continues to produce some of the best food in the world.