Newsletter – April 2024

Newsletter | April, 2024

Spring Newsletter April 2024

Spring has officially arrived! Looking out of the window at the snow steadily falling here on the eastern edge of the Cairngorms one would never know! Hopefully this is the last hurrah of winter and better days are ahead.

We are sharing some important news including financial opportunities in this season’s newsletter, so I hope you find time to peruse. Our Ten Principles of Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture might help to dispel some of the mysteries surrounding these terms and give some potential pointers for practice.

Finally, we are thrilled to welcome a new team member!!
Enjoy

Amidst farmer protests over the threat from cheap imports and policies deemed unsupportive, there has nevertheless been a flurry of excitement and mass uptake of England’s new environmental land management schemes. Payments have been increased this year for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), in some cases dramatically, and fifty new actions will be added to the scheme this summer. In an effort to streamline the process, the SFI will merge with the Countryside stewardship (CS) mid-tier agreements in a single online application later this year. Defra’s farming blog gives a helpful explanation of the changes with a full list of actions and payments in the technical annex to the Agricultural Transition Plan.

In a recent Farmers Weekly webinar about the SFI, we were assured that SFI payments “can easily exceed the 2020 BPS £ per hectare across the farm”. One of the farmers we are working with has attested to this and is very happy with his combined SFI/CS payments this year.

The schemes have been so popular that Defra has now put area limits on six of the SFI actions that take land out of food production. Whether that’s truly to address fears of running out of food, or fears of the money pot running dry, we’ll let you decide. As one farmer said, “arable farming is so unprofitable at the moment , and high risk with climate change, farmers realise if they put the farm down to wild birds mix they are earning more money with no risk!”

Seventeen thousand farmers in England have already applied for the SFI realising
that, with the BPS ending this year, financial survival is dependent on these
schemes.

There are further exciting opportunities for a secure income whilst restoring nature through the Environment Bank’s (EB) BNG schemes. 

Currently they are offering approximately £900/ha/year for 30 years.  EB leases the land from the farmer so the payment comprises £240/ha/year as rent, and the other £660/ha/year as a management payment to the farmer who can still continue to farm the land.  Farmers can opt to take the rental portion of the payment upfront in a lump sum which can provide a substantial injection of cash into the business.  

EB prefer a minimum area of 20 hectares, and typically work with lowland meadows. If animals are still present, they require a low stocking density (0.5 units/ha) and a late hay cut.  They cover all the upfront capital creation costs, and their team of ecologists handle habitat design. 

Interested? You can complete EB’s registration form without obligation for an online review of your land to see how much income you could potentially generate. 


Scotland’s Rural Support – Fit’s gan doune?

The Scottish Government published their Stage 1 report on the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill | Scottish Parliament on March 18th.  We’re excited to see this journey unfold and are overall very pleased with the scope for change that this Bill affords. We were invited to submit suggested amendments to the Bill and have done so in the hope that support will be in place for farmers and crofters exchanging livestock agriculture for fairer, greener livelihoods. 

Further to some campaigning we did last year, Ariane Burgess, MSP, is appealing to have stocking density requirements removed for farmers and crofters in Payment Regions Two and Three, and to have the minimum land requirement for support eligibility eliminated.  Both of these amendments are good news for farmers and crofters wishing to grow food and restore habitats, as well as for small market gardens and horticulture units previously lacking support.

Now begins the critical but laborious work of building the secondary legislation around the framework of the Bill which will ultimately tell us what actions and practices will be rewarded under the fifty per cent conditionality portion of future rural payments.


Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture – Ten Principles of Practice


Farm Transitions Update

Over the past year we have assisted 12 farmers in a variety of ways on their transition journeys.  We feel that the movement is gaining momentum as more farmers are pursuing change. Increasingly, the driving force behind the need for change seems to be the ethical or moral dilemma that farming livestock presents, and how this impacts upon farmer mental and physical wellbeing. 

We recently completed a farmer survey in conjunction with the University of Bath and Bryant Research into farming and mental health; the results have gone for analysis.  Glancing over the raw data it is clear that farmers find sending animals to market upsetting and at times downright traumatic.  

This is a topic that is barely considered by consumers and policymakers as they pop the meat in the supermarket basket. We hope to publish the survey findings before the end of the year.  I think it will be an eye-opener for us all.


Call to Action!
Have your say on the future of Scotland’s food.



The Scottish Government’s consultation on the Good Food Nation Plan, an important document for the future direction of Scottish food policy, is closing soon on the 22nd April. The Plan sets out the government’s six objectives for food policy, how it intends to achieve these objectives and how they will measure progress towards these goals. Government ministers must also consider the Plan when working on other food related policy areas so the Plan will impact Scottish food systems at both the national and local levels. It is therefore vital that we lend our voices to the consultation to steer the Plan in the direction of more stockfree-organic farming and crofting and the production and consumption of more plant-based food and drink. This consultation is on the shorter side and most questions are optional so it shouldn’t take too long to complete!

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay


Welcome Dr Molly Vansanthakumar!

Finally, we are beyond delighted to welcome Molly to our leadership team!  Until recently, Molly was a land management advisor for a national park. She is also a qualified veterinarian, the daughter of a former sheep farmer, and holds a Masters’ degree in Sustainable Food and Natural Resources!!  

Molly will be working on farmer outreach, securing funding for transitions, providing lobbying support across the UK (she will be based in Wales!), and researching into land use and other aspects of farm transitions.  Molly can be reached at molly@stockfreefarming.org.


With best wishes,

Rebecca, Sam, and Molly.

Featured Image: Akos Szabo

To subscribe to our occasional newsletters, click “HERE“.

Scroll to Top