‘Evolution not a revolution’: Defra announces update of Agricultural Transition Plan

Management & Regulation

Defra has unveiled the update to its Agricultural Transition Plan – we go into more detail on the full plan here – revealing a series of next steps that include an exit scheme for farmers and focuses on both landscape and local nature recovery.

Defra writes that its chief purpose for the update is upholding its promise to provide further details of the rollout of its Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, which opens in spring 2022, with the first payments planned before the end of 2022.

The above includes outlining the full scope of eligibility to the scheme – more than 2,000 applications have already been submitted for its pilot – and details of how farmers can be rewarded through it.

Its vision for the scheme is for farmers to have the opportunity to be rewarded for the following:
• maintaining and enhancing the natural environment
• reducing carbon emissions
• improving the health and welfare of farmed animals across the whole farmed countryside

On the second point the plan highlighted the increasing recognition of ‘soils as a potential carbon store’ and to this end the scheme will introduce two soils standards – an arable and horticultural soils standard and an improved grassland soils standard – that farmers can both sign up to and be rewarded for.

This is with the ultimate aim of achieving the following climate change outcomes:
• reduce levels of sediment, nutrient, pesticide, and chemical pollution in water
• increase ground and surface water resources
• reduce flooding
• reduce compaction, erosion, and run-off
• reduce loss of water and organic matter
• reduce greenhouse gas emissions
• maintain or enhance carbon storage, water storage, and biodiversity

Defra plans to add more standards into the scheme between 2022 and 2024.

Beyond the above Defra confirms that by 2024 it will have fully introduced three new environmental land management schemes: the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery.

The update also talks about Defra’s desire to ‘support the choices that individual farm enterprises make’ and this includes its previously announced plans for an exit scheme for farmers who want to leave the sector and co-design work with farmers, land-managers, inspectors and experts on farming policy to collaboratively design the future regulatory system.

Read more on agriculture: 5 steps towards net zero agriculture and agriculture and biodiversity: spreading best practice.

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