Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) calls recent Defra developments to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) ‘concrete progress’ and a ‘significant step forward’ for sustainable farming.

OF&G welcomes the flexibility offered to organic farmers by the SFI via its expanded remit, detailed in a 150-page SFI handbook published by Defra alongside a leaflet dedicated to organic, which outlines the payments available under the new scheme.

OF&G chief executive Roger Kerr (pictured left) sees this is as an ‘acknowledgment of the organic sector’s environmental contribution’. “We’re finally seeing some concrete progress and clarity within SFI that recognizes the value of public goods, many of which are consistently delivered by organic licensees,” he comments.

“Considering the ambitions to reach net zero by 2050, organic offers an immediate and accessible pathway. The SFI gives farmers a robust, platform from which to look forward and project how change – if handled in the right way – can deliver against the targets in the Environment Act and Environmental Improvement Plan.”

This represents a clear direction of travel that should be celebrated

While OF&G ‘remains positive’ that any issues can be resolved, the certifier notes certain ‘inconsistencies’ in payment rates for organic farm businesses – and for those considering converting to organic – and it therefore calls for further analysis to identify which options are ‘stackable’ and which are ‘mutually exclusive’.

“The SFI opens the door to simultaneously deliver resilient food production while protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Both measures are essential if we are to continue to feed the UK population over the next century.

“This policy does, however, represent a significant change for everyone working in the agricultural sector and it is essential that farmers are fully supported during the transition.

“In delivering the SFI and its wide-ranging package of options the Government is supporting many of the practises undertaken by organic farmers. This represents a clear direction of travel that should be celebrated. We will continue to work with policymakers and stakeholders to ensure organic farmers can fully capitalize on this opportunity,” says Kerr.