Update of ELMs from Adrian Steele (Organic Sector development advisor)
In June, Defra was able to roll out the first phase of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) with only minor hitches.
One drawback was that any BPS applicant who was in a Countryside Stewardship, or Environmental Stewardship agreement, experienced processing delays, and in some cases disqualification for some land parcels on account of ‘double funding.’ We are drawing Defra’s attention to where this has happened to organic farmers. Whilst the basic organic land management options are not deemed double funded, options stacked on top of those are. We are ascertaining which options are ‘caught out’ and asking them for a rationale. More information to follow.
New SFI standards are in development, and we are updated on their progress through the Stakeholder Engagement Group. We are also able to participate in the Practitioner Stakeholder Group that Defra have set up to assist in co-design of the Nutrient Management Standard, and the No/Low input grassland Standard, as well as the development of the Agroforestry Standards.
Although the work is confidential, there is growing evidence that Defra is beginning to listen more attentively to the feedback from its Test and Trials, including our recently concluded one. This feedback clearly indicates that farmers need better information about the SFI and Local Nature Recovery (LNR). They also are requesting tailored advice.
The SFI organic standard is in the pipeline, and we have put in a request to meet with Defra to understand more about this process. In the meantime, we are close to getting approval for our next Test and Trial, which will, we hope, start in October 2022. This will enable the Defra and the organic sector to work more effectively at ‘road testing’ the SFI standards against certified organic practices; something which could have a positive bearing on the financial outcomes for organic farms under the SFI.