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Agriculture Act 2020

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 101705, tabled on 11 January 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what progress he has made on delivering public payments for public goods since the passing of the Agriculture Act 2020.

Answered on

24 January 2022

We are working in partnership with farmers to design our three future schemes that reward farmers and land managers for producing public goods: The Sustainable Farming Incentive; Local Nature Recovery; and Landscape Recovery.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will pay farmers for actions they take, going beyond regulatory requirements, to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way. In 2021 we launched the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot and received over 900 applications. The first agreements have started and will run until 2024. In 2022 we will start to roll-out the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme and intend to expand the scheme over the next 3 years. In December 2021 we published information on the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme - including indicative standards and payment rates. We are also continuing to develop the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway in partnership with farmers and experts, including surveying 300 farms to understand where animal welfare can be improved on farm. In 2022 we will start to roll-out core elements of the pathway and will launch the Annual Health and Welfare Review.

The Local Nature Recovery scheme will pay for actions that support local nature recovery and deliver local environmental priorities; making sure the right things are delivered in the right places. We are currently developing the scheme and plan to make an early version of the scheme available to a limited number of people in 2023 as part of our plans for testing and rolling out the scheme. We will then roll out the scheme across the whole country by the end of 2024.

Landscape Recovery will support the delivery of landscape and ecosystem recovery through long-term, large-scale projects, including projects to restore wilder landscapes in places where that's appropriate, large-scale tree planting and peatland restoration projects. We will pilot Landscape Recovery between 2022-24 through initiating at least 10 large-scale projects.

We recently published a summary of what we’re learning from our programme of test and trials, where more than 3,000 people are leading projects to test ideas and are being used to develop the schemes.

We have also launched the Farming Innovation Pathways competition for research and development within UK Research and Innovation’s Transforming Food Production programme to develop farm-focused innovations. We increased funding for the programme to £14.5 million due to high demand and quality research projects across farming sectors; projects started from October 2021.

We have in addition:

  • Launched the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme of grants.
  • Launched the Farming Investment Fund helping farmers invest in technology.
  • Begun offering free business planning advice to potentially 10,000 farmers through 19 bodies.

Throughout this time, we have been at the agricultural shows, taking part in Q&A sessions with farmers, and engaging through our regular engagement groups as part of our ongoing dialogue with farmers and other interested parties.