Farmers are being encouraged to take part in the pilot of the Sustainable Farming Incentive – the next step in the government’s plans to reward farmers and land managers for sustainable farming practices.

Details of the new scheme have been published today (Wednesday, March 10) with expressions of interest for the pilot set to open from Monday (March 15).

It’s part of the UK government’s new post-Brexit support system “tailored to the interests of UK farmers”.

A spokesperson said: “It is the most significant change to farming and land management in 50 years, designed to deliver a renewed agricultural sector, producing healthy food for consumption at home and abroad, where farms can be profitable and economically sustainable.”

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of three schemes to be piloted and co-designed. Further information on the other two schemes – Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery – will be shared later this year.

Rewarding farmers

The three schemes will reward farmers and land managers for producing public goods like biodiversity, cleaner water, cleaner air, improving soil, and carbon reduction on their land.

The government said that the schemes will help farmers, foresters and other land managers play a crucial role in the national effort to tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will support approaches to farming that deliver for the environment, such as actions to improve soil health, hedgerows and integrated pest management.

The pilot will build on the results of the ongoing programme of tests and trials, which already involve over 3,000 farmers and other land managers.

Supporting choices

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The ethos at the heart of our future policy is to support the choices of individual farm enterprises.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will support the environment and promote animal welfare. It will reward approaches to farm husbandry such as encouraging integrated pest management, improving soil health and enhancing hedgerows.

“Assets that were previously dubbed “ineligible features” will finally have their value recognised and rewarded. I would encourage farmers to engage in this pilot to help us design the new scheme.”

Farmers will need to complete a short, simple online form to submit expressions of interest in taking part in the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot.

Successful candidates will then be invited to complete their application and, if eligible, they will enter into a pilot agreement starting from October 2021.

This initial stage will be open to several hundred farmers.

Pilot participants will be asked to take part in a range of co-design activities, providing rapid feedback on their experience of all aspects of the process – from pre-application to implementing their agreements.