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Agricultural Transition Plan

Volume 726: debated on Thursday 26 January 2023

We are undertaking the most significant reform of agricultural policy and spending in England in decades as we take England out of the EU’s bureaucratic and damaging common agricultural policy. Today I am setting out detailed plans for the nation’s farming sector, supporting farmers to be profitable and resilient as they produce food sustainably while protecting nature and enhancing the environment.

These plans build on the announcements made at the Oxford farming conference earlier this month. They provide clarity and certainty to farmers, allowing them to make business decisions and cover costs as direct payments are phased out while getting involved in environmental land management schemes.

The roll out of the sustainable farming incentive will be accelerated, with six additional standards added this year, meaning farmers can receive payment for actions on hedgerows, grassland, arable and horticultural land, integrated pest management and nutrient management. They build on the three existing standards to improve soil health and moorlands introduced in 2022—which nearly 1,900 farmers already have in agreements.

Farmers will also be paid to deliver more through an enhanced version of the countryside stewardship scheme, which will see around 30 additional actions available to farmers by the end of 2024. The expansion builds on the more than 250 actions farmers can take at present. The scheme has seen a 94% increase in uptake since 2020 and is now part of thousands of farm businesses. The next round of the countryside stewardship higher tier will open in February, with mid-tier following in March.

Countryside stewardship-plus will reward farmers for taking co-ordinated action, working with neighbouring farms and landowners to support climate and nature aims. The countryside stewardship scheme will also be improved so farmers benefit from greater flexibility over when they can apply and how they manage their agreements, with improved access for tenant farmers and increased access to higher tier options and agreements.

Applications for the second round of the landscape recovery scheme will open in the spring to support ambitious large-scale nature recovery projects, focusing on net zero, protected sites and habitat creation. We will take on up to 25 projects which could include projects creating and enhancing woodlands, peatland, nature reserves and protected sites such as ancient woodlands, wetlands and salt marshes.

Taken together, the environmental land management schemes will offer something for every type of farmer. This includes tenant farmers, with a range of actions relevant to their holding, especially through the sustainable farming incentive which has been designed with them in mind. The schemes will make food production more resilient and efficient over the longer term while contributing towards the UK’s environmental goals on climate adaptation, biodiversity, water quality and net zero. Together this will safeguard the long-term prosperity of the farming industry and protect the environment for future generations.