Farmers call for more funding for managing grassland  

A recent Defra webinar on funding for grassland and livestock saw farmers question the funding available for low input grassland, species rich grassland and good quality semi-improved grassland options under the SFI.

dairy cows grazing in a field
Stock photo for illustration.

Defra recently hosted a webinar to highlight the funding available for grassland and livestock farmers under the Sustainable Farming Incentive.

A Q&A saw farmers point out that payment rates for low input grassland are much lower than other options – and ask whether this could de-incentivise farmers from managing permanent grassland. It was also asked why there are no species-rich grassland and good quality semi-improved grassland options in the SFI. 

Andrea Maxwell, one of the team leaders on the SFI content team said there will be improved options for species rich grassland, and other grassland offers in the new year.

It was also pointed out that the government had promised that farmers would have a pathway to transition from Countryside Stewardship schemes to SFI. RPA and Defra representatives on the webinar confirmed this is being worked on and an announcement is expected in the new year.

Additionally, there were questions about hedgerows, including whether the length applied for is doubled if both sides of the hedgerow are being managed. If the farm has management control of both sides, they would be able to claim £6/100m rather than £3/100m under the HRW1 action (assess and record hedgerow condition), Andrea confirmed.

However, management of both sides of the hedgerow is required for HRW3 (maintain or establish hedgerow trees), which seems to exclude those that have a shared boundary with a neighbouring farm.  

Speakers confirmed that there are plans to include new entrants in SFI in future, but currently the schemes are only open to farmers who were eligible for BPS. 

Finally, next year there will be further announcements on the moorland offer – which farmers said is limited and pays very little for a lot of actions – as well as the availability of Mid-Tier.

When it comes to the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, it’s expected that funding will be available for improvements to adult cattle buildings next year, said Defra policy advisor Jimmy Lindqvist. Another round of calf housing grants, plus funding for poultry and pigs, are also planned, with more accurate timescales due later on. 

Defra will furthermore look at different options for sheep for the annual vet visit under the Pathway.

The next round of the Farming Equipment and Transformation will also launch early in 2024.

Grants currently available for livestock and grassland:

  • SFI: Andrea Maxwell outlined options for grassland available for grassland (below)
  • Animal Health and Welfare Pathway: An annual vet review was made available earlier this year and provides funding for an annual vet visit, covering the priorities specific to the individual farm
  • Slurry Infrastructure grant: Round two is now open to applications. Changes have been introduced in response to feedback, so storage has now been extended to eight months for pig farmers, and further items including separators are now included in the grant. Smaller slurry items like spreaders and scrapers will be included in the next round of the FETF.

Due to time constraints during the webinar and the large volume of questions, Defra is set to publish answers to the top 5-10 most popular questions on its Farming Blog in due course.

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