To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential impact of the Sustainable Farming Incentive programme on (a) farm-level crop yields, (b) national agricultural productivity and (c) domestic food self-sufficiency levels.
Our overall assessment of the impacts of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) on yields, productivity and domestic food production is based on a review of quantitative and qualitative evidence. SFI is designed to support farmers in managing their land in an environmentally sustainable way. Many SFI actions are designed to be undertaken alongside their agricultural operations and do not require land be taken out of production. Some actions within SFI are likely to take small areas of often marginally productive land out of production, lowering overall output for the farm in the short term. In the longer term this is likely to be offset by long term improvements in soil health and pollinator abundance which will support increased yields. Some actions in SFI will also reduce the need for fertilisers or pesticides leading to lower inputs and higher productivity. SFI, along with other schemes in the wider farming and countryside programme (including for example the Farming Resilience Fund, the Farming Investment Fund and the Farming Innovation Programme) will collectively support increases in agricultural productivity over the agricultural transition. Overall, this should allow participating farmers to broadly maintain long-run food production and to meet the objective, set out on the Food Strategy, of maintaining national food production at current levels.