10 March 2021
Responding to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) pilot details and standards announced today, Dr Richard Benwell CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “It is good to see Defra road testing the SFI, an important vehicle for delivering a sustainable future for farming. However, Defra is starting out on the path of farming reform without a clear route map for moving beyond business as usual to a future where farming plays a key role in nature’s recovery.
“It is vital that in the months ahead as the pilot is underway, Defra clarifies the starting line for the SFI and the ultimate destination. Some of the options under consideration in the pilot are already regulatory requirements, or may not achieve real environmental improvement, and could gobble up vital funds needed to support more environmentally ambitious farming and land management businesses.
“Setting out beyond business as usual standards will be a critical test for the scheme. Crucially, we also need clarity about which nature measures available for payments at the outset will become part of the normal expectations for a responsible farm business over time. This is vital for farmers and land managers to know what is available to them when and to ensure they strive to make more nature improvements as the scheme progresses.
“It will be impossible to improve the state of nature and our climate without a policy vehicle that can bring farmers on a speedy journey to widespread adoption of higher standards and investment in nature. The SFI could be that vehicle, but without further clarity on the direction of travel or clear measurements for progress, we cannot be certain that it will deliver the high-standard environmental future we need.”
Nature groups generally welcomed the launch of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, but cautioned that important details remained to be decided, which would determine the success of the pilot and the main programme:
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