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Defra environment scheme offers limited benefits for pig farmers - but more opportunities to come

31st Jan 2023 / By Alistair Driver

Defra’s major announcement on its new environmental schemes does not deliver many obvious benefits for pig farmers, but other funding streams should become increasingly available soon, according to the NPA.

Six new standards will be added to the Sustainable Farming Incentive this year, Defra Secretary Therese Coffey announced last week.

They cover hedgerows, grassland, arable and horticultural land, pest management and nutrient management, building on the three introduced in 2022 to improve soil health and moorlands. However, while many pig units are part of wider farming enterprises, there is very little in there specifically for pig producers so far, although further detail of how the scheme will work is still needed.

Defra has also detailed what farmers will be paid through an enhanced version of the Countryside Stewardship scheme.

The next round of Countryside Stewardship Higher-Tier will open in February, with Mid-Tier following in March, while applications for the second round of the Landscape Recovery scheme will open in the spring to support large-scale nature projects.

Ms Coffey said these incentives will make food production more resilient and efficient over the longer term while contributing towards the UK’s environmental goals.

Amid concern over the lukewarm response from farmers so far to the scheme, NFU vice president David Exwood said the ‘useful’ announcement provided ‘some of the clarity we have been asking for’.

NPA view 

NPA chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale said the lack of pig options under the new environmental scheme was not surprising, given the focus so far on this aspect of support.

She stressed, however, that funding options would increasingly be available to pig farmers under the Pig Health and Welfare Pathway and two grant schemes.

The second round of the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (for smaller grants) is expected to launch in early 2023, with an expanded offer on slurry, productivity and animal health and welfare.

Under the Farming Transformation Fund (larger grants), options for water management are expected to be launched in early 2023.

“We hope both schemes will be helpful for pig producers,” Ms Veale said.