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New measures to ensure food production remains the primary purpose of farming

In a bid to reinforce how vital food production is to farming, new measures have been unveiled to restrict how much land can be allocated away from food production under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) acknowledges that most farmers already prioritise food production, however a minority have allocated more land than intended under the SFI. These changes will therefore help to ensure a better balance between food production and improving the environment.

Under the revised guidelines, SFI applicants will be restricted to allocating only 25% of their land to six SFI actions that take land out of direct food production. These actions, such as flower-rich grass margins and winter bird food provisions, remain integral to sustainable farming practices but were intended for limited implementation.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer underscored the importance of food production as the primary function of farming, saying: “The six actions we are capping were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of land, and these changes will help to maintain this intention and continue our commitment to maintain domestic food production.”

With over 15,000 applications already received for SFI, the scheme’s popularity underscores farmers’ commitment to sustainable practices. Importantly, the vast majority of land under the scheme remains dedicated to food production, with SFI incentivising more resilient and sustainable farming methods.

In addition to these measures, the government is implementing further initiatives to bolster food security, including the establishment of a UK-wide Food Security Index and the commitment to an annual Farm to Fork Summit. These are designed to help maintain the target of producing at least 60% of the food in the UK that is consumed here.

Details on the timeline for implementing these caps will be provided in the upcoming weeks.


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