25 Mar 2024
by Oli Hill

AIC welcomes Defra cap on SFI actions in move to sustain food production


Farming Minister Mark Spencer MP made the announcement on SFI.

The amount of land farmers in England can take out of food production under the Government's flagship environmental scheme will be capped, following concerns raised by Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) Members and others advising farmers on SFI applications.

Under new measures announced by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) today (25 March), new applicants to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme will only be able to put 25% of their land into six SFI actions that take land out of food production.

The actions are:   

  • Flower-rich grass margins   
  • Pollen and nectar flower mix   
  • Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land   
  • Grassy field corners and blocks   
  • Improved grassland field corners or blocks out of management   
  • Winter bird food on improved grassland

Food security

Andrew Pearson, AIC's Environment Policy Manager, said: "We welcome this positive change to the SFI scheme because it gives our Member businesses greater clarity and certainty, and it also indicates that the Government is listening to fears that environmental ambitions are being delivered at the expense of our nation's food security.

"Sustainability goals can be delivered in tandem with domestic food production, which is why AIC is calling on the Government to set up a statutory, independent UK Food Security Committee to show that it truly takes this matter seriously.

"The value and certainty that such a body can bring to the agri-food industry will significantly enhance our nation’s food security for the long term by providing a cross-Whitehall, cross-UK oversight of what recent events have highlighted as a critical issue."

This is one of three core food supply chain asks of the next UK Government, as set out in AIC's recently published 2024 General Election manifesto.

The ask already has the backing of many industry bodies, politicians and leading academics. Go to the campaign webpage for full details.

Last year AIC commissioned Anglia Ruskin University to produce an independent report assessing the UK agri-food sector's productivity. The "Powering Productivity for Sustainable UK Food Security" report made a series of recommendations on sustainably enhancing our nation's food security.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer MP said: "Food production is the primary purpose of farming and today we are taking action to clarify this principle.   

"The six actions we are capping were always intended to be implemented on smaller areas of land, and these changes will help to maintain this intention and continue our commitment to maintain domestic food production."


Oli Hill

Oli Hill

Communications Manager, AIC

As Communications Manager, Oli creates and oversees the content published on AIC's website, emails, Member briefings, print publications, and social media.

A qualified multimedia journalist, he previously spent six years working at Farmers Weekly magazine as a Senior Reporter on the arable team, and latterly as Community Editor. More recently he was Communications Manager at Red Tractor.

[email protected]
01733 385230

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