Food: Production

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 18 September 2023.

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Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps her Department is taking to (a) incentivise and (b) support domestic food production.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government is backing British farmers with £2.4 billion of investment every year. In May 2023 the Prime Minister and the Defra Secretary of State met with representatives from across the whole UK supply chain, from farm to fork, for a Summit on how Government and industry can work together to support a thriving UK food industry. Support for farmers includes our Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes. These schemes will ensure our long-term food security by investing in the foundations of food production: healthy soil, water and biodiverse ecosystems. ELM schemes have been developed so that there is an offer for all farm types, including for tenant farmers.

ELM includes the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). This pays farmers for actions that support food production and can help improve farm productivity and resilience, while protecting and improving the environment. It has been expanded and made more flexible in response to farmers’ feedback, with 23 actions on offer under the new and improved 2023 scheme, including on soil health, moorland, hedgerows, integrated pest management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips, and low input grassland. In recognition of the challenges faced with inflation and rising input costs, the Government has confirmed farmers will receive a payment in the first month of their Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 (SFI) agreement to help with cashflow. The scheme will open for applications from 18 September. Before then farmers can contact the RPA to join the thousands of farm businesses that have already expressed their interest in applying.

ELM also includes Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Landscape Recovery (LR). CS will pay farmers and land managers to look after and improve the environment in specific habitats, features and local areas. LR is for landowners and managers who want to take a more large-scale, long-term approach to producing environmental and climate goods on their land. LR projects will demonstrate how food production and environmental delivery can go hand in hand.

The Government has also confirmed that farmers producing sustainable British food under ELM schemes will be able to use them to help meet public procurement standards, benefiting our British farmers and allowing the public sector to benefit from more excellent British food. We are providing tailored business advice to all farmers. We have cut red tape, brought in fair enforcement regimes, and helped the sector access the seasonal labour it needs. We are looking closely at the Shropshire review into labour shortages in the food chain that we commissioned to see how we can go further.

We are also reviewing supply chain fairness in the sector: the Government announced in July that it plans to introduce regulations this autumn to make sure supply contracts in the dairy sector are fair and transparent, meaning farmers can challenge prices or raise concerns with contracts more easily. This represents a key milestone in our commitment to promote fairness and transparency across food supply chains to support farmers and build a stronger future for the industry, and will be followed by reviews into the egg and horticulture sector supply chains this Autumn to ensure farmers are paid a fair price. We will also identify opportunities to remove unnecessary burdens for Small Abattoirs. We are also trying to unlock opportunities for genetic technologies.

Further information on how we are supporting farmers can be found on our webpage: Our record on farming: 30 actions we have taken to support our farmers and growers.

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