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The Environmental Improvement Plan 2023

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

DEFRA’s vision of the changing role of farmers in the UK has been given more detail in the Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), which links schemes to restore nature, pollution, and growth in England. The EIP wants 65 to 80% of landowners and farmers to adopt nature friendly farming on more than 10-15% of their land by 2030 and was published on 31 Jan 2023.

The EIP expands on the 25-year Environmental Plan, how to improve the environment within a generation and the Environment Act 2021, a legally-binding, long-term targets to restore nature.

The plan looks at 10 key areas:

  1. Thriving plants and wildlife

  2. Clean air

  3. Clean and plentiful water

  4. Managing exposure to chemicals and pesticides

  5. Maximise our resources, minimise our waste

  6. Using resources from nature sustainably

  7. Mitigating and adapting to climate change

  8. Reduced risk of harm from environmental hazards

  9. Enhancing biosecurity

  10. Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment

Wildlife Habitat

80 to 100% of the target to restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected areas, by 2042, will be achieved using regulation and a combination of public and private schemes:


1. Farming and land management will create favourable conditions for 75% of protected sites by 2042:

  • reducing impacts from non-native species.

  • managing sensitive areas, (nutrient or sediment run-off causing poor water quality).

  • ensuring species have strongholds to expand into a farmed landscape.

  • outside of protected sites (a continuation of well-managed priority habitats).

  • newly restored or created habitats.

2. Creating habitats for relevant species and developing carbon sequestration with more trees. Reducing the impact on food security by planting trees with a mixed approach:

  • trees as part of food producing systems (agroforestry),

  • creation of smaller woodlands,

  • larger scale woodland creation.

By 2050, these measures will achieve 90% of the Environment Act target to increase tree cover to 16.5% of England’s land area by 2050. This could mean 10% of arable land being managed for trees and crops.

Payments are available through these schemes:


The farming reforms will target, a combination of public and private schemes and regulation will contribute at least 80% to deliver the target to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution from agriculture into the water environment. The remainder will be achieved through developments in soil and nutrient management.

Working with the farming sector to improve water storage, management, and resilience. The target is to reduce the use of the public water supply by :

  • changes to abstraction and water licensing,

  • offering grant funding, the Water Management grant, 2022.

  • increase the percentage of water storage used by the agriculture and horticulture sectors ,66% by 2050.

Regulation will also target high-risk areas and support farmers by helping them meet the cost of improved infrastructure and equipment. There is a short period for investment to bring the sector up to date, after which regulatory activities and enforcement will prevent pollution from poor slurry storage and/or management.

Funds are available through The Sustainable Farming Incentive which pays farmers to farming sustainably and protect watercourses. This will be achieved through a combination of large-scale actions:

  • Countryside Stewardship. The Capital Grants scheme is part of Mid-Tier CS. It provides 3-year agreements offering capital items to achieve specific environmental benefits in 4 groups:

    • boundaries, trees and orchards

    • water quality

    • air quality

    • natural flood management

  • Landscape Recovery: in round one, it was improving water quality, biodiversity and climate change measures.

  • Farming Investment Fund: During 2023 there will be rounds of the fund, to help farmers and growers invest in equipment and infrastructure to improve water quality and sustainability. This includes:

Climate Change Targets and Sustainability

The EIP Plan suggests incentives and grants will be offered to farmers to decarbonise agricultural emissions through adopting sustainable land management approaches, new technology, and innovative practices to improve farm efficiency through:

  • Landscape Recovery : the main vehicle for peatland restoration, particularly through larger-scale, longer term projects

  • Countryside Stewardship: through tree planting and increasing agroforestry

  • Sustainable Farming Incentive: the standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero

  • Farming Innovation Programme: supporting farmers and land managers to find innovative ways to maximise productivity and drive sustainability

  • Farming Investment Fund: through accessing the grants available to support farmers to invest in capital equipment and infrastructure that boost sustainable productivity and reduce producer greenhouse gas emission

  • Farming in Protected Landscapes has been extended by a year to March 2025. Providing funding for farmers and other land managers to work in partnership with National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England to deliver projects across climate, nature, people and place. The programme has already helped 1,800 projects and approx. 2000 farmers and land managers. More information the Farming in Protected Landscapes guidance page.

Free help is available, to help farmers to understand how the changes can work for their farms.

Farms receiving BPS in England, can get free, independent help by signing up to the Future Farming Resilience Fund (FFRF) with NIAB, Savills and AKC. They are part of a group that have been chosen to help farmers in England make sense of the changes and develop bespoke plans for the future on each farm.

With over 2 years of Future Farming Resilience Fund (FFRF) help available to farmers, before the scheme ends in 2025, there has never been a better time to sign up to NIAB FFRF and get free help to start planning the future of your farm.

Source Defra.

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