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Farm payments, Future Farm Resilience and Defra – challenges and opportunities

Farm payments, Future Farm Resilience and Defra – challenges and opportunities

With Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications complete, many of you will be looking at Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) schemes to replace dwindling support from government.

Support from Future Farm Resilience Fund

We have been running a series of workshops and webinars during the spring to explain the implications of this for organic and low input producers. We’ll be starting again with more in the Autumn when hopefully we will have the new range of SFI Standards live and available to stack on top of the soils standards we currently have available. In the meantime, you’re welcome to request a 1-2-1 meeting with one of our Farming and Land use advisors as part of our involvement with the Future Farm Resilience Fund by contacting us at to find out how to sign up, or just to ask to be added to the mailing list when we start the webinars again.

Our work behind the scenes

There is understandable frustration that farms with options in CS schemes have seemingly been penalised for doing the right thing and are not eligible for SFI payments which were seen as the base level of the new Environmental Land Management (ELMs) payment system. As the schemes roll out, we are pressing for this to be changed and the new CS scheme and SFI options, which were mentioned with much fanfare in the Prospectus in January (you can read my summary), will allow more people to access these base payments and to be paid for the public goods they have been providing for nothing for years.

Levelling the field?

Many of the new proposed SFI options seem very similar to existing CS options with the same payment rates and so show how SFI and CS can dovetail. Hopefully the objective of having a level playing field for all producers and not differential payments for similar options, as we currently have in CS with GS4 and OP4, will mean organic producers will start being properly supported for the provision of public good which is apparent in organic farming.

However, the positive message from the prospectus, that organic certification will be recognised by the UK government (rather than through the EU) through continued CS options of organic management payments has been undermined by the rejection of an English Organic Action plan, the Soil health Action plan and the Horticultural strategy-all of which would have given some direction to policy makers and support for industry.  

Working with Defra

There have also been some significant changes in personnel at Defra of late which has meant that our team has had to re-explain principles of organic and agroecological farming at regular intervals, but we know that the message is getting through to those who are making decisions, although the whole co-design idea has slowed down.  In the meantime, we are pressing on with a Defra funded Test and Trial centred on 16 organic farms, where we are showcasing Public Goods delivery through Public Goods Tool audit, and metrics through Soil Association Exchange (who map the impact of farms against key environmental metrics). We will also use the Test and Trial to highlight the role played in delivering these beneficial outcomes through implementation of organic standards through the certification process.

No requirement for BPS forms

One significant change in paperwork recently announced is that you will no longer be required to fill in a BPS form, and that the remaining BPS payment is no longer linked to land. There will be BPS payments, but they will be based around your reference amount, the average BPS payments from 2020-2022. There will be a letter telling you what this is in the autumn, but payments will then be based on that sum and there will no longer be the need to have land to receive payment. If you have sold, bought, rented in or out or changed business structures during that time there is guidance to explain what to do, but you should talk to a land agent to workout what to do as it could be a minefield.

See challenge as opportunity

The change to a system where there are not direct payments, which have been used to prop up businesses, but payments for practices is significant, and should be looked at as an opportunity to review and plan for the future.

If you are not in a CS scheme, take the opportunity to look at it, there are more than 70 options that organic farmers can apply for including the organic management and conversion payments, and so getting paid for what you are already doing or getting paid for what you want to do is possible.

For those currently in schemes, capital works can be applied for now as separate standalone applications unless you have outstanding capital works to do on the original application. With new schemes you have 3 years to complete the work, but there is an option to apply for an extension if you were unable to complete the work on older agreements.

We will continue to update you about significant changes as we become aware of them.


Find out more

Forthcoming Future Farm Resilience events

Making changes to your farm practice? See our Low Input Farming Advice