Rural Areas: Business

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 24th December 2021.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to provide alternative support to rural businesses to help them diversify as Basic Payment Scheme income reduces.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Our manifesto was clear that we would maintain the annual budget for farming for every year of this parliament. Freed from the Common Agricultural Policy, we are repurposing this money to incentivise sustainable farming practices alongside profitable food production. We have also made simplifications to the 2021 Basic Payment Scheme, as set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan. This included removing the greening requirements. These simplifications meant the scheme guidance was reduced by about half.

Earlier this month (December 2021) we published information on the Sustainable Farming Incentive in 2022. The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of our three new environmental land management schemes. Through this scheme, we will pay farmers to produce public goods such as water quality, biodiversity, animal health and welfare and climate change mitigation, alongside food production. The December update set out details of scheme policy, including on eligibility, applications and payment rates. We will pay a more generous payment rate than previous EU schemes, and there will be fewer rules and more trust. As we said in the December update, we want to see large-scale adoption of the Sustainable Farming Incentive across the range of farm types, locations and tenancy arrangements, with 70% of farms and farmland in the scheme by 2028.

Alongside the Sustainable Farming Incentive, we will be launching the Local Nature Recovery scheme and the Landscape Recovery scheme. All three schemes will be accessible to farmers. Local Nature Recovery will begin a phased rollout from 2023 and will pay farmers for using less productive areas of their farms to create habitats and support biodiversity and water quality. It will also support collaboration between groups of farmers. Landscape Recovery will begin piloting in 2022 and will pay landowners who want to take a more radical and large-scale approach to producing environmental outcomes through land use change. We will set out more detail on Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery in the New Year.

There will also be schemes to help support businesses to get ready for the agricultural transition period which runs from 2021 to 2027. We have already opened the Farming Investment Fund for applications. It is there to support farmers to invest in new equipment, technology and infrastructure to improve productivity, support animal health and welfare and improve environmental outcomes. We plan to launch an added value theme under the Farming Transformation Fund and this will support farmers to invest in shortening their supply chains through packing, processing and retailing their produce. The Farming Innovation Programme opened for applications in October 2021. This will support ambitious projects to transform productivity and enhance environmental sustainability in England’s agricultural and horticultural sectors, whilst driving the sectors towards net zero. And we know that a vibrant industry needs to attract new talent. Our New Entrant Support scheme aims to encourage new starters into farming. Eligibility for this scheme will be developed in partnership with stakeholders and applications will open in 2022.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), worth over £2.6 billion over the next three years, will help people access opportunity in places in need, including in rural and coastal communities. The Government will publish further details on the fund in due course.

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