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Defra restricts amount of land going into SFI scheme

Farmers in tractors bring chaos to Westminster.

Defra has announced a cap on the amount farmers in England can claim on environmental incentives. New applicants of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme will only be able to put 25% of their land into the six SFI actions that take land out of food production, which include planting winter bird food crops on arable land. 

The schemes pay farmers to improve the environment alongside sustainable food production and the new cap comes in response to industry concerns about food security. Defra Minister Mark Spencer said: “Food production is the primary purpose of farming, and today we are taking action to clarify this principle.” 

Most of the land in the SFI scheme continues to produce food but about 1% of farmers who applied to SFI 2023 wanted to put 80% or more of their farm into these six non-productive actions, which prompted the clarification. It came on the same day as farmers formed a protest in Westminster against what they said was a lack of support for food production in the UK.