As part of a farming family myself, I do fully recognise the valuable work done by our farmers across the country and so I am delighted that this Government is committed to supporting our farming industry and our rural communities. I am keen to update you.
Ministers are currently undertaking the most significant reform of agricultural policy and spending in England for decades. This ranges from phasing out unfair & environmentally damaging farm subsidies; significantly improving services to farmers; providing one-off grants to support farm productivity, innovation, research, and development; to developing schemes to pay farmers to provide environmental goods and services alongside food production.
Too often, production methods have been at the expense of nature rather than being symbiotic – the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will pay for sustainable farming practices, improving animal health and welfare, reducing carbon emissions, creating & preserving habitats, and making landscape-scale environmental changes. These are important steps towards achieving our ambitious targets for the environment and climate, including our carbon net zero goals.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive will provide farmers with a diverse range of paid actions to manage hedgerows for wildlife, plant nectar-rich wildflowers and manage crop pests without the use of insecticides.
In addition, Ministers are also improving the way rules around farming and the countryside are set and controlled, aiming to take a more collaborative approach in developing administration of the schemes.
For example, ‘Countryside Stewardship Plus’ will reward farmers for taking coordinated action, working with neighbouring farms and landowners to support climate and nature aims, including managing floodplain meadows to reduce flood risk and improve biodiversity, restoring and maintaining peatland for carbon capture and storage, and enhancing & managing woodland to mitigate against drought and enhance resilience to climate change.
The Government’s Plan for Water will allow farmers to benefit from significant additional funding to help them better manage slurry storage, improve water efficiency and irrigation as well as develop more on-farm reservoirs in order to tackle water pollution.
The Government is also working to facilitate organic fertiliser use through new fertiliser product laws which will give buyers confidence on nutrient content, contamination risk and other features of products derived from manures.
I am sure these transformational farming schemes, that will rightly pay farmers and land managers to restore nature while working with them to grow and maintain a resilient, productive and diverse agricultural sector over the long term, are welcomed by us all here in Mid Sussex. I will be following their implementation closely.