Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 31 May 2023.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Warwick Lord Taylor of Warwick Non-affiliated

To ask His Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to strengthen the long-term (1) resilience, and (2) sustainability, of the agricultural sector in the UK.

Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As agriculture is a devolved matter, the resilience and sustainability of the agricultural sector in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are matters for their respective devolved administrations.

In England, the Government has taken a number of steps to strengthen the long-term resilience and sustainability of the agricultural sector. We are offering ongoing payments and one-off grants to improve farm productivity, benefit the environment and support sustainable food production. We have already seen the number of agreements in Countryside Stewardship increase by 94 per cent since 2020 and now almost one third of farm holdings are in an agri-environmental scheme. Landscape Recovery was also hugely oversubscribed, with all projects involving farmers including tenants, and we opened applications to the next round of farmers and land managers on 18 May 2023. The Sustainable Farming Incentive will open with a new and improved, expanded offer later in summer 2023. Many farmers have also already applied for £168 million of grant funding available this year to support investments in productivity, animal health and welfare and the environment. Farmers affected by the phasing out of Direct Payments can also receive free business advice and support through the Future Farming Resilience Fund.

Furthermore, at our recent UK Farm to Fork Summit we announced:

A further £12.5 million is being made available in May to support research projects that will support environmental sustainability and resilience on farms

Additional investment of up to around £30 million to unlock the potential of precision breeding

A working group to bring plant breeders, food manufacturers and retailers together to agree an approach that enables these products to reach our shelves.

Beyond this, we have invested £8 million in research through our crop Genetic Improvement Networks over the last five years to improve UK food security and environmental outcomes. We will build upon this through substantial additional investment to unlock the potential of precision breeding, following royal assent for the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act.

We have also launched three farming innovation competitions since January this year, providing a total of £21.5 million of funding. These measures will enable our future food and farming sector to be more productive and resilient thanks to British science and innovation.

We will continue to work closely with the Food and Drink Sector Council, which brings together leaders across the whole of the agri-food chain and across government, on the issues that it plans to focus on for the next year including: the future of food; sustainability; workforce challenges; and supply resilience.

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