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SFI uptake and food production

With an election in progress Defra have gone quiet in terms of public announcements but in the background, things are progressing with the introduction of SFI 2024. I know that because of Purdah (sorry the Pre-Election Period, apparently purdah had political connotations), and Defra needing to show impartiality but the timing couldn’t have been worse for briefing us all on this and other forms of grant funding and rural schemes.

The RPA have now closed for SFI 2023 applications, except for those who have already started applications who have 60 days to submit the application from the date the application was created. If still completing an SFI 2023 application remember to compare the details for individual actions under SFI 2023 and SFI 2024 as there may be differences and depending on the actions you are considering may influence the best route to take.

With the election in mind, I was going to work through the different manifestos (and statement) and publish the agricultural sections but the NFU published an article “General election – your go-to guide to what's on offer for farming” which does this job for us. Whilst not restricted by any pre-election period I am going to keep my NIAB impartiality and make no comment here 😊

I was also interested to read over the weekend an article on the AHDB website published last month on how SFI is being taken up on farms. Earlier in the year I saw some information created for NIAB members showing the benefits of keeping land in food production and with only 19% of businesses taking more than 10% of their land out of production it clearly shows that most farms still see food production as the core part of their business.

Despite the back and forth and regular updating of rules being a headache, I believe it to be the correct decision to limit SFI actions that take land out of production to 25%. This directs farms to focus on identifying the poorer performing areas of land to enter into environmental schemes, whilst focusing on maximising production on the rest of the farm.

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