A Real Recognition of The Importance of Food Security or Simply A Reconciling of DEFRA Budgets?

Whatever you think about the recent DEFRA announcement that new SFI agreements are going to be restricting the options available to farmers, this is surely the first time for a long time the Government have made any noises about domestic food security and the importance of farmland to produce food.  Cynics may challenge this as simply being just Tory government trying to redress the imbalance of movement towards utilising farmland for the natural environment rather than for actual food production but even so, the simple recognition is an important first step towards placing the deserved importance of UK farmland producing food for domestic consumption.  We have seen a huge update in SFI agreements due to many factors and the knock-on effect is bound to tighten the supply of domestic commodities over the next few years.  This along with existing enterprises switching to lower output enterprise models basing themselves from a lower input cost structure is likely to add to the drop off in domestic output.

DEFRA have identified 6 SFI actions and are from the 1st April 2024 restricting all new agreements to only being able to include an area equal to less than 25% of the entire farming area into these specific options.  This will be calculated across the whole farm business area and will be a total of the combination of these areas.  This does not impact on any SFI agreement that had either been submitted or accepted before the 1st April 2024.

This might at first glance be seen as slightly restrictive in terms of choices available to farmers but in our opinion, we do not see it as overly limiting for farms of a mixed nature in terms of land covers and of particular scale.  What is perhaps the most concerning thing is the ability of DEFRA to change the goal posts so soon after launching the new SFI scheme.  It begs the question as to what could be next in terms of changes to the existing scheme.

I would urge anyone on the sidelines of a new SFI agreement to jump in and seize the opportunity presented by DEFRA while the targets for nature conservation are being pursued and while the budget is available.  One never knows what changes are around the corner, and what direction a new government may drive towards.  

For more information on SFIs and how they could compliment your existing farming practices financially and physically, contact David at dgreen@fcgagric.com.