Updates from Defra – January 

This month, we’re introducing our new blog series “Updates from Defra”. Each month, the team at Defra send us their updates, and we'll share the top picks which we believe are important and helpful for you, our community of Land App users, here on the blog.

Please note, the following updates come directly from Defra, and are not written by Land App.

This month, Defra have made the following announcements: 

  1. Biggest upgrade to UK farming schemes introduced by the Government since leaving the EU

On 4 January, the Secretary of State Steve Barclay attended the Oxford Farming Conference and gave a speech. He announced the biggest upgrade to farming schemes since the start of the agricultural transition. 

 In the speech he announced that:

  • we’re paying more for actions in Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship – on average rates have increased by 10%. We will automatically apply any uplifts to existing agreements where applicable.  
  • around 50 new actions are being added to our Environmental Land Management schemes from summer 2024. This will mean farmers have more choice, with an offer for all farm types.   
  • from this summer farmers will be able to apply for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Sustainable Farming Incentive actions together – through one application. Meaning, farmers will have access to the same actions and can have the same ambition, just with less paperwork.
  • we will consult on improving food labelling to tackle the unfairness created by unclear labelling – including better highlighting imports that do not meet UK welfare standards.
  • we will be setting out some principles and standards for how everyone across Defra group works with farmers, so we can build trust and ensure changes are made with farmers, not to them.

Credit: Saxman1597

Government backs farmers and will continue to support the agriculture sector to do what they do best; produce food hand in hand with preserving the diversity and abundance of nature.  

We have published the Agricultural Transition Plan update on GOV.UK. This document updates on our progress since the Agricultural Transition Plan in 2020 and sets out our priorities and plans for the coming years.    

In the document we set out our overall approach to these reforms and how food and the environment can and must go hand in hand. It is by supporting productivity, innovation and ensuring our schemes work with food production we will reach our challenging environmental targets and maintain food production.  

For further details on the announcement please read the post on Defra’s Farming blog and the Press Release

  1. Sustainable Farming Incentive: increased payment rates and new digital service for customers to notify RPA of mapping changes

There has never been a better time to sign up for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).
Join over 8,000 farmers who have submitted their applications for SFI. You will benefit from the recent update in payment prices which has seen a 10% increase in the average value of scheme agreements. 

There is also more choice about what you can do with more SFI actions being made available in Summer 2024, to better reflect the full spectrum of farming interests. Once in SFI you can add more into your agreements at the annual review point and can have additional agreements if you wish outside of that cycle.   

To apply for SFI the RPA require mapping to be correct before you can complete an application. Recently the RPA has launched a new digital service for customers to notify us of mapping changes called Rural Land Changes. This online method will replace the eRLE1 form and significantly reduce the length of time it takes the RPA to action submissions from customers. These changes are being made following feedback from farmers and land managers about how they complete mapping changes.

Using the online service will mean the RPA can update the land quicker, and you can begin your application sooner. 

If you’re unable to use the Rural Payments service, the paper RLE1 form is still available. 

You can find the guidance for the new online service and the link to the RLE1 form on the Make changes to your rural land maps online or get an RLE1 form page.

Updated payment rates, more choice and improvements to the new digital mapping service are just a few of the reasons to apply for SFI. You can read the full list of reasons to apply and what SFI can offer you on Defra’s dedicated campaign page. 

  1. Defra launches applications for Bees’ Needs Champion awards 2024

On 8 January, the Defra opened applications for the Bees’ Needs Champions Awards 2024. These awards celebrate exceptional things local authorities, community groups, farmers and businesses or individuals have done to support pollinators. 

Defra gives Bees’ Needs Champion awards to people and organisations who have done inspiring things (big and small), to help pollinators to thrive. This could include creating a wildflower patch, educating the local community or even taking special measures to help pollinators on your farm or in and around your workplace.

There are two categories to nominate yourself for an award or someone else: local communities or farming.

Applications close on 12 May 2024. For further details on how to apply, please visit the Bees’ Needs Champions Awards GOV.UK page.

  1. An update on grants

Following on from our announcement at the CLA Conference in November, here’s an update on grants that are now open for applications.

Farmers are now able to apply for individual grants up to £100,000 through the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF). The grant will help farmers attract investment from the private sector. Applications close on 16 February. Information on how to apply is available on the Defra Farming Blog. 

Farming Innovation Programme: 

  • The Large Research and Development (R&D) competition opened on the 15 January, businesses can apply for a share of the £7.8 million Large R&D fund, which supports industrial research or experimental development projects.
  • A reminder that the Research Starter competition, is still open for applications. Farmers, growers and foresters in England can apply for a share of the £850,000 Research Starter funding to get innovative new projects off the ground if they have the potential to move the agricultural sector to Net Zero. If you are out speaking to farmers, make sure to remind them that applications close on 14 February.

Credit: Clinton and Charles Robertson

  1. Improving Farm Productivity

The Improving Farm Productivity grant opened on 25th January. Businesses can apply for an initial share of £30 million, providing capital grants of £25,000-£500,000 towards robotic and automatic equipment. For the first time, it will also fund grants of between £15,000-£100,000 towards solar equipment that can be fitted on rooftops and float on irrigation reservoirs. For more information and how to apply, please read the Defra farming blog, found here.

Credit: Peter O’Connor 


Share the Post

Read more

17 Jan 2024

Land App Team

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is a central policy for both development and conservation in England, introducing a new focus to the way we approach land development. This blog explores what BNG is: its key points, purpose, and why it matters...

Read more

10 Jan 2024

Land App Team

Habitat Assessments Explained: Navigating baselining with Land App

As the land management sector begins the transition to digital mapping in earnest, habitat mapping has become more sophisticated, and important. Habitat assessments will play an important role in new environmental land management schemes, developments for Biodiversity Net Gain, Landscape...

Read more

30 Nov 2023

Land App Team

Right Tree, Right Place: Making Woodland Creation Matter

Read more