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Defra to accelerate SFI payments for farmers with live agreements

In recognition of the challenges farmers face with high inflation and rising input costs, the government has confirmed this Back British Farming Day (13th September) that those holding a live Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 (SFI) agreement will receive accelerated payments to help with cash flow.

Despite repeated assurances from senior officials that SFI 2023 will be up and running by the end of August, delays to the scheme’s launch have left farmers with a bleak outlook for the rest of the year.

While producers could submit an “an expression of interest” for the scheme on 30th August, applications will not be accepted until 18th September, which is when SFI 2023 is officially set to open.

To spare producers from the ‘double whammy’ of thinning BPS payments and a lack of funding to replace those, the NFU has called on the government to treat farmers fairly and halt all further reductions via the old scheme until SFI delays have been resolved.

Recognizing the challenges the industry is facing, Defra has today announced that farmers who have a live SFI 2023 agreement before the end of the year will receive an accelerated payment – worth 25% of the value of their agreement – in the first month of the scheme.

The move is aimed at helping producers with cashflow and making sure SFI works for farm businesses.

Food and farming secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “Today’s announcements are acting on commitments made at the Farm to Fork Summit and driving forward our new farming schemes to deliver a profitable and sustainable food and farming sector that delivers for people and our planet now and into the future.”

Farming minister Mark Spencer added: “I continue to do all I can to support British farmers and growers and our flexible new farming schemes and continued investment in technology and automation are already delivering positive outcomes for domestic food production and the environment.

“I will continue to work closely with the sector to take on board feedback to ensure our schemes work in the best possible way so farmers can run profitable and sustainable businesses into the future.”

Other announcements made by Defra today to showcase support for British farmers include plans to appoint five additional agri-food attaches to unlock new trading markets and promote British produce around the world.

The government will also support small abattoirs in helping farmers reach local and international markets by launching a £4 million Small Abattoir Fund by the end of the year to improve productivity, enhance animal health and welfare, and encourage investment in new technologies.

Last but not least, farmers will also be able to apply for a share of a new £30 million funding pot intended to boost the uptake of solar equipment, automation and robotics on farms. This will help farmers reduce fossil fuel use, improve energy resilience and accelerate progress towards net zero.

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