Future Farming podcast

Janet Hughes and Clive Bailye - Answering farmers' questions about the Sustainable Farming Incentive

November 12, 2021 Defra
Future Farming podcast
Janet Hughes and Clive Bailye - Answering farmers' questions about the Sustainable Farming Incentive
Show Notes Transcript

In September 2021 the Farming Forum held a two-part Q&A session with Janet Hughes, Defra’s Future Farming and Countryside Programme Director. Farmers were invited to submit their questions about the Sustainable Farming Incentive. Clive Bailye, Director of the Farming Forum, put the most-asked questions to Janet.

The original videos can be watched here and here. We are making this version available as slightly abridged highlights version on the podcast. 

Clive Bailye, Director of the Farming Forum:
Hello and welcome to what is now the third opportunity that Defra have given members of the Farming Forum to put their questions to the people that are responsible for and helping create and shape the scheme. In the past we've spoken to David Kennedy and Janet Hughes. Today we've got Janet here to answer some questions again that members of the forum have put, slight difference this time that we've not selected the questions, we've got this fancy new feature now where members of the forum are able to upvote and downvote the questions that they want to see asked, so this really is a bit of crowd wisdom as to which are the are the questions that they most want answers to. Brief introduction, Janet, her title is Director for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme. Hi Janet, and great to see you again.

Janet Hughes, Director, Future Farming and Countryside Programme, Defra:
Great to be here.

Clive Bailye:
And good to see you at Groundswell.

Janet Hughes:
That was my first trip out for the whole, after lockdown, so it was my first time seeing humans in real life.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, me too, it seemed quite strange to be actually standing with real people rather than zoom meetings.

Janet Hughes:
It was really lovely. I was a bit nervous about it and about what it would feel like but it was just really nice to see people in real life and have all those conversations. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed Cereals as well and the Great Yorkshire Show and the national and organic combinable crops and various others that the team have been along to, we've had a great time getting out and about again, it's so nice to be out in real life again.

Clive Bailye:
I think so, it’s made us all realise how much we've missed that actual real interaction with real people and and and you know they're incredibly positive, I thought, some of those events, [there are a lot of] changes going on in this industry right now, but people seemed really quite positive about things so, good, yeah. So it's been quite a lot changed since we last spoke wasn't there, quite a lot of developments I think, maybe you want to explain, I think you've now got the pilots open, so yeah explain a bit more about where we're at at the moment before we dive into the questions I've got in front of me.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, I'm happy to do that. So on the Sustainable Farming Incentive, which is the way that we're going to pay farmers to take action on their land, and those actions are universal, anyone can do them anywhere on that particular type of land, and we've launched the pilot. We had more than 2,000 farmers saying that they were interested in taking part and we've now opened up the applications and we're waiting to see and we've got a good few already so it looks like we're on track to get a decent number of people participating in that pilot. That's really exciting because that means we can test out in real life end to end some of the ideas that we've been looking at through Tests and Trials, but we're also, even more exciting, getting ready to launch the main Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme for everyone from next spring, and we published some information in June about what that's going to look like, and in summary it's going to include two standards for soil arable and horticultural soil and improved grass and soil, and it's going to include a standard for the moorlands, which will be primarily focused on assessing the condition of the land and the condition of the moorlands and we're working with partners, ex-farmers and other experts, to design what an extended moorland standard should look like, but we're going to start there and then it will also include the first step on the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, as we call it, which is a free annual review of animal health and welfare on your farm led by a vet chosen by you, where you can get some advice about how to improve animal health and welfare and that will be available from next spring.

So we're full tilt into getting that ready for delivery and we're going to finalise the standards and payment rates for that, and then there's a whole lot of other stuff coming around the Farming Investment Fund, we'll publish some details about that shortly. We've been working hard on that on the innovation research and development projects and grant funding, there'll be more information coming out about that and then we'll also have more to say because we've been working hard on this too about what the Local Nature Recovery schemes might look like and the Landscape Recovery scheme, so we have been hard at work and very excited about coming out with a lot more details and information which I know is really important to farmers. We know you need information to plan, we've been working really hard to pull that together, so that’s where we are, I think.

Clive Bailye:
Great, sounds like you're all very busy. So great, so should we just dive straight into questions and go from an order. So all right, we’ve got this first one, it's about payments really, yeah, predictably. The old scheme payments were not index linked, thus after 10 years the annual payment remained the same, but substantially devalued by input increases and inflation. Will the new schemes, SFI and and other parts of environmental land management be pegged at the rate of their first year, I guess, you know it seems to be inflation in the wider economy seems to be going kind of a bit mad at the moment, prices seemingly, try buying wood at the moment, it's worth more than gold. So yeah, I guess that's where that's coming from.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, we really recognise this issue so we're, there's a few things to say about this, the rates for Countryside Stewardship haven't been updated since 2013, so we're doing a review now of all of the payment rates in Countryside Stewardship so we can bring them up to date, and we will publish the results of that before the end of this year. We've already updated the payment rates for the Sustainable Farming Incentive for those soil standards that I mentioned, so they are about 30 per cent higher than they would have been had we just used the existing way of calculating payment rates. But we are also looking at payment rates across the piece and we'll publish more information about that later this year about what the payment rates will look like for other standards and the Sustainable Farming Incentive having reviewed them. But the question is more about do we just do that once and then allow it to kind of become out of date again, and the answer is no, we've said we'll regularly update the payment rates. We haven't decided yet exactly how we'll do that or how frequently, but we do not want to get into this situation again where we've got payment rates that were set 8 years ago which are now obviously out of date. The question about index linking all the rates is tricky because the inflation for one particular type of cost is very different to another type of cost over time, and we do see quite a range of changes when we're looking at the CS payment rates, so there isn't a sort of ‘there's the rate and we'll increase it by x percent a year across absolutely everything’ solution here, but we certainly will be looking at reviewing the payment rates regularly and keeping you up to date, and we'll publish more information about that over the next six months to a year as we work our way through the options. But I very much recognise the issue and it's really important, and we want to get that right and we have said that we will do that.

Clive Bailye:
Great, thanks, pretty comprehensive answer there, so Greg, thank you. And next question then, can you clearly state at the beginning of any agreements that any land in that agreement will not have its use restricted in any way once the term of the agreement has passed, and if not, why not?

Janet Hughes:
So the answer to that is, it depends, so for most of the things that you would do if not all in the Sustainable Farming Incentive, the duration of the agreement is just the length of the agreement and what you do after that is your business. For some of the other schemes though, particularly Landscape Recovery where what we're talking about is large-scale long-term land use change, we're not going to invest over 20 years in a land use change project and then have that completely undone on day one after that agreement ends, because that's an awful lot of public money that we would have invested over a long period of time to make that land use change happen or that habitat restoration happen. So in Landscape Recovery, we are looking at ways to say, right, that is now a land use change that has happened and must persist otherwise we don't get value for money, but for most people that's not the scheme you're going to be in because there's going to be a relatively small number of people in those sorts of schemes looking at long term large scale change for farmers who are taking part in the Sustainable Farming Incentive. You're much more likely to be in a situation where you're in an agreement that you will do certain things over a certain period of time and then after that it's up to you what you do. That's really important apart from anything else, because some of the way people want to use these standards in rotation around their land year by year, and we know that people do that with some CS options now, so it's important that we get this right.

Clive Bailye:
Great, thank you, yeah, next question really is around economies of scale, which I think is a very fair point being made by one of the members of the forum. How can Defra make sure that access to higher levels of SFI will be economically feasible for smaller farms, some actions are economically easier to achieve for larger farms, for example, use efficient precision application equipment for fertilising organic matter, which requires significant investments. I guess, a soil management plan which requires a similar amount of work to prepare on a 1,000 hectare farm as it would for a 100 hectare farm, it's going to basically, the theory is here that the scheme will give much lower remuneration to the 100 hectare farmer than that 1,000 hectare farmer, how are you planning to deal with that issue?

Janet Hughes:
It's important, and we're looking at this through Tests and Trials, and we will also look at it through the pilot to make sure that what we're designing here works for all different types of farm in all different sizes and all different locations. It is fair to say that there are economies of scale from having a big farm and we can't completely do away with that, that is a true fact, I think you'd have to think about whether if we're asking you to do things like use precision application equipment, does that mean you have to have sole ownership of such equipment or could you rent it or could you jointly go into some kind of joint venture or joint machinery agreement with other farmers, which I know lots of farmers do, so I think just because we've said that action is needed doesn't mean automatically you personally have to buy the kit and make the investment for that action, and there's lots of other options to look at there and in our productivity schemes by the way we are looking at, because the farming organisations prompted us to, questions about potential joint machinery agreements, is that what they’re called?, where farmers jointly buy machinery together that they can share and how we can support that through our productivity schemes so that the two things join up together.

Clive Bailye:
OK, that's interesting, so potentially hinting that there could be some kind of encouragement to make farmers work more collaboratively really?

Janet Hughes:
Well, I think, we wouldn't like to make farmers do anything and I certainly am not in the business of making anybody do anything and because what do I know about your individual farm, but we do think that those farms that are more profitable are more likely to engage in collaboration with their neighbours or with others who are doing similar types of farming than those that are less profitable, and we know from farmers that participate in things like discussion groups or cooperatives or machinery agreements or whatever, that they find it useful to do that, and so I think we would want to recognise that that's a thing that exists in the sector and point others in the direction of doing those things too if it makes sense for them. But obviously I don't know what makes sense on any individual farm, that's for the individual farmer to decide, but in answering the question about small farms we want to make sure that the scheme is workable on a small farm on the face of it, but also we think there's probably action for farmers to think about as to how they might be able to think creatively about how to achieve some of those higher levels if machinery is required.

Clive Bailye:
All right, that's really interesting because you're definitely very right about the collaboration, that knowledge sharing, groups and things like that without a doubt it's interesting to see how you actually can incentivise and encourage that, that's a challenge, but great. OK this is kind of connected, I suppose, and actually a personal bugbear of mine in the past, the history of grant schemes, [they] have supported buying equipment in the past, the question is why does Defra continue to exclude second-hand equipment from the grant schemes aimed at increasing productivity and profitability, when half the UK farming industry can seldom afford to buy this new machinery, you know, second hand, the approach discriminates against all these farmers. Something I'd add to that personally as well, it's annoyed me in the past when there's been a capital grant for some machinery because one of the things it does straight away is, you encourage manufacturers to put their prices up because the affordability is now better and it devalues all of our second-hand equipment because everybody now is better off to go and buy a new machine than than a good second hand one anymore. So how will you address that?

Janet Hughes:
It's really tricky this, and you're not the first person to ask this question, as you can tell from the fact it's been upvoted by others and because I can completely see from your point of view you might want to buy second-hand equipment. The reason we don't fund it is because how do you set the price, that's really difficult to do, and because it has all the sort of impacts you've just talked about. But obviously it will vary depending on the age and quality of the equipment and where it is in the country and all of that kind of stuff, so setting the price is quite difficult, having any assurance that the quality is going to be there is quite difficult and it's much more difficult to regulate from the perspective of error and fraud and those sorts of issues too. So the reason we don't do it is because it's really hard, and if anybody's got a great idea about how we might do it then I'll always, I'd love to hear about it, so far we haven't found a way that makes sense and is actually deliverable to be able to fund second-hand equipment instead of first-hand equipment.

Clive Bailye:
OK, that might be a good thread for the forum, actually, to see if people have got ideas and suggestions of a mechanism that can make that work because it's definitely a problem. It's why often these capital grants don't really seem to produce the benefit that they should, I totally get the principle of helping people fund the change they need, but if it distorts markets then it has unintended consequence, doesn't it?

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, so on that, lots of people say that it distorts markets and I asked that question having heard that when I first came into the programme last year. We haven't found any evidence that actually happens following the introduction of grants, there is definitely a widely held view that it does and that must be based on something, but we can't find any evidence that it actually happens interestingly, and we do think that giving the grants that we give obviously has benefits for those that do participate, so we do think it does achieve the benefits, but I can see the point about why you might want to buy second-hand equipment, I can see why you would make that point and ask that question.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, another connected kind of issue with this is, I've always found personally, they they sometimes seem to discriminate against innovators in the industry. I personally never found myself able to qualify for any capital grant that's ever been announced in the past normally because we've already bought that equipment like GPS equipment or direct drilling equipment or whatever, we've normally bought it five or six years before the grant has become available, you kind of feel when you're trying to do the right things, you're trying to innovate, you're trying to be more efficient, that actually sometimes you sit there and think well I'd be better to just wait until I'm actually positively financially encouraged to do this, which is wrong, but it doesn't feel right sometimes.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, it's a tricky one. I don't know what the answer to that is, I do know that it's a tricky, definitely a tricky one, and there's all sorts of we have to be very careful when we're doing this about all the different incentives that we're creating and the disincentives that we're creating, and obviously the last thing we want to do is prevent people from investing in innovative tech. Part of the answer to this is that we're not just supporting the kind of standard small and large grants that we've done before, we've improved those schemes and they'll come out in the form of the Farming Investment Fund, but we are also now trying to support innovation research and development much more directly both from the perspective of doing the research in the first place but also supporting people to adopt innovative technology as it comes out so that we can increase the pace and scale of adoption of some of this innovative tech, so maybe that's more the answer to your question rather than how do we do it in the Farming Innovation Fund, is that we have this separate strand of work to try to help with people who are early adopters and are trying to blaze a trail.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, that makes sense. I think at the moment, the whole the uncertainty in the immediate future is causing people to delay some of those decisions, at Groundswell farmers saying I’ll decide on if I buy a new drill when I know what's happening with these capital grants, so there's a lot of people delaying decisions at the moment because the last thing I'm going to do is pay full price tomorrow and find out I could have got a big percentage off next year, that kind of thing.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, this is why we need to get the information out there, and we will as soon as we can get the information out there about what it is that we're going to fund and how's it all going to work so that we don't have that problem.

Clive Bailye:
Great, and I'm guessing, as well, these capital grants won't just be machinery based, they’d be towards trees and improvements.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, there will be capital grants, there are through Countryside Stewardship already, there's a question, open question as to how far we go on infrastructure, which we will publish information about, and I can't remember exactly where we tried to draw the line but there is a line somewhere between what we pay for and what we don't obviously on farms.

Clive Bailye:
Great. OK, we'll move on to the next question, which actually was one that I asked so someone voted it up.

Janet Hughes:
Oh, well done you, asking a question, it gets voted up, your finger on the pulse!

Clive Bailye:
Sorry for the length of it though, and I think it's been talked about quite a lot in other threads on the forum, which is why I asked it actually, which is basically, how have the payment rates been calculated? It's the short version, as a farmer with an invitation to the SFI pilot list, I've spent the last few weeks trying to make a scheme to stack up from my farm as you know we've practised regenerative agriculture for well over a decade now, and we've been producing natural capital without payment, but the standards applicable to me, which is mainly soil and however, in my particular case, they're demanding me to take a lot of additional land to be removed from production to achieve, we're looking at those, we tick the boxes for a lot of the advanced scheme, the advanced levels with that we've given them, just a few more small changes now to get to them, but basically the additional land that the scheme is requiring me to remove, those percentages which all stack on top of each other, then coming out of production, the rate doesn't really come close to replacing the output I'm going to lose on that area, and it would be a significant extra area of the farm. So this means that my pilot application really would require me to approach this in a slightly charitable way, which is something that most farmers simply can't afford to do when margins are tight. So if I'm typical of of those considering SFI at the moment, this could cause a low uptake, so these income foregone calculations, how have they been calculated and are they fixed now or is there scope for them to be changed throughout the pilot if it's not really covering the cost of my output from those acres that I wanted out of production?

Janet Hughes:
So this is why we have a pilot, so that we can find things like this out before we launch it at scale. So excellent you're taking part and you can give us that feedback, very helpful. The prices are not yet fixed, so the way we calculated the prices for the standards as they currently are on the pilot in most cases, except for the two soil standards which I'll come back to, was we used the existing way of calculating the payments because we didn't have anything better in place at the time. What we are now doing is reviewing all of those prices in Countryside Stewardship and indeed in the pilot, and we'll come out with the updated rates and so those rates will change. The ones that are exempt from that, what I just said is that the two soil standards that are going into the main scheme next year, we've already updated those, so the initial pilot prices have been updated and they're about, as I said, about 30% higher than they would otherwise have been, and we've adjusted them a bit to make them still affordable from our perspective, as well as doable from the farmer’s perspective, so the rates are not fixed and they are under review, and we recognise the issues that you're talking about but what we need to learn from the pilot is how do these different standards operate with each other, and how does that stack up, and how does it make sense on a farm, and really the only way to learn that is to get farmers like you to have a go and see what it looks like and tell us, and then we'll learn from that and adapt as we go, and the whole point about the pilot is we'll learn things and then we'll be able to change what we're doing so that it works when we roll it out more broadly for everybody.

Clive Bailye:
That's good to hear then, so things aren't really, yeah, cast in stone at this stage.

Janet Hughes:
No, no, the whole point of the pilot is that it's not cast in stone, it's for us to test and learn, and we genuinely are committed to learning as we go and changing things as we go.

Clive Bailye:
But I guess the concern there might just be throughout the pilot though, that a farmer like me, and I know talking to others that are in the pilot, may not get to that level of feedback, instead I've looked at it and said, well OK, I won’t do the advanced soil standard because I'm going to be worse off, so rather than saying, yeah, I'll do it, I'm going to be worse off and I'll feed that back to you, and you saying, oh, sorry, we're trying to sort it out in future versions of the scheme, it requires me in that first pilot year to take a kick really, which you know, all of the people are just going to say, well, yeah, we looked at the pilot, we won't do it until it’s the rates we need it to be.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, and that I can see why people might make that decision. I think, so we are going to survey everybody who expressed an interest in the pilot to ask them how they found the application process and what they think about it all, so we can maximally learn from what we're doing. We know we have applications for the pilot, and we may have future cohorts in the pilot, so it might be that you decide not to come in now, you want to come in later, it might be you decide just to put a bit of the land in now in a way that makes sense, and then you can change your agreement later and add more in as things become clear and as we learn at that as we go, and that would be something that I would be thinking about in your position certainly to say get my foot in the door and then be able to see how things develop over time and add more things in from there.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, that's exactly the kind of the conclusion we've come to and the route that we'll probably take personally, but I have heard other farmers say, right, the best way to get the message through to Defra that these rates aren't high enough is not not to do the scheme, not to do the pilot, and when they ask why aren’t you doing the pilot say, well, the rates aren't high enough. But obviously that's not really what you want to happen.

Janet Hughes:
No, it’s not ideal, but that is one way of telling us. Another way is just to tell us and then we'll know. I think this goes to a bit of a wider point about how we need to build this dialogue on an ongoing basis because there are lots of people who still don't really believe that we're listening yet because we haven't got far enough into the process to demonstrate that we are, and until we do we, can't really build people's trust and confidence that we are listening and we are adapting and changing and improving things as we go, and so I couldn't take more seriously the need to earn people's trust and confidence, and I can see why people might feel at this stage like they don't yet have the grounds to be confident in what we're doing because we haven't progressed far enough to show that what I'm saying is actually true and we are in fact listening. So, I understand why people might feel that way and only the passage of time and successful delivery and evidence of us listening will start to change that, won't it?

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, it's a complicated, I sympathise because it's a complicated equation, you know, income foregone on marginal land in low productive grassland or low yielding cereals is very different to income foregone on really high quality, high yielding, high cereal yields or potential vegetable production land, it's a very different sum, isn't it, one man's income foregone is not anothers basically, it varies farm to farm.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, exactly.

Clive Bailye:
OK, moving on to the next then, according to Defra’s own website, the SFI is designed to pay farmers and this is, they're quoting this, pay farmers to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way. How exactly does this mesh with the recently announced Environment Agency restrictions on the use of farmyard manures on arable land? Sustainable farming requires completing of a nitrogen cycle, how can farming be sustainable if it's prevented from spreading animal manures onto land that’s destined for cropping?

Janet Hughes:
I know, there's been a lot of talk about this, it came up at the shows and I've seen it on social media a lot recently as well, and I know there's lots of concern about it. So the first thing to say is, this is the Environment Agency leading on this, and so I can tell you what the position is, but it's the Environment Agency, the enforcement body. The controls do allow the use of nutrients on farms, so it's not you can't do it, it's just you can you can only do it in a way that doesn't pollute the surrounding environment, so it's not that this is completely outlawed and that's the end of that, it's that the rules are a bit more kind of nuanced and flexible than that, and that's the ‘right now’ position. In terms of what we're doing for the future, we know that there's a kind of bit of a disconnect between the way that we enforce rules and the way that we incentivise environmental public goods on land, and we have a whole part of my programme that's working on how do we make regulation and enforcement much fairer, more proportionate and more effective, where it needs to be effective.

Clive Bailye:
OK, next question, what do you consider the maximum acceptable percentage of the total budget to be spent on administration support and compliance, and what do you consider the minimum acceptable percentage of total budget going to farmers who have forfeited this money?

Janet Hughes:
So the government has been very clear in its manifesto and in subsequent commitments including the Agricultural Transition Plan that we published last November, that the £2.4 billion that we're going to spend on average each year during the parliament, is for money to be going out to farmers and land managers. It's not for administration. There always has been, through the rural development programme for England, a £20 million allocation out of that £2.4 billion, for what's called technical assistance, and that is used to support the development and implementation of schemes, but there's a cap on that of £20 million, and we said in the Agricultural Transition Plan that cap would remain in place. There is a spending review going on at the moment, so all government spending is under review again, but that is a commitment that has been previously made both in the manifesto in the last spending review and in the Agricultural Transition Plan, and that’s our view as to where that should stay.

Clive Bailye:
OK, that makes sense again, so thank you. Next question, can Defra give categorical assurance that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legislation will not apply to land entered into the environmental land management schemes? It seems like Natural England are attempting to use the EIA system to prevent land entered into long-term environmental schemes from ever returning to its previous use. What do Defra have to say about this? Related to this as well, the same person also asks, what happened to the payment by results idea?

Janet Hughes:
Actually, I'll start there, payment by results is on the face of it really attractive because we're rewarding people for producing really good outcomes on their land. However, when you start looking at it in detail, it's very hard to design a payment by results scheme when nature's involved, and to do so in a way that's fair and reasonable because the results you get will depend on all sorts of things outside your control like your location, the weather, which particular field a bird fancy's landing on on the day that you're being inspected, and all sorts of other factors, and so we have been looking at payment by results through our Tests and Trials, where we've got more than 3,000 people, including lots of farmers and land managers, testing things on the ground to see how we can make this work. We have looked at payment by results there, we're continuing to look at it because we like the idea in principle of rewarding people for really good outcomes, but for now we think the fairest way to manage particularly the Sustainable Farming Incentive is to pay people for actions because we know from the science that those actions on average in general will result in good outcomes, and we want farmers to have the certainty that if they do those actions they will get paid for them rather than having to pay to do things on their land not really sure whether they'll get the results in the time frame of the scheme that they're in. So we think that's fairer and more reasonable and more consistent for people for now. But we are keeping payment by results under review.

On the EIA regs, so these regs like all rules, they exist for a reason, which is to protect semi-natural and precious habitats from being damaged through agricultural cultivation, and where they tend to be applied in relation to schemes is where you've gone into a scheme to create a new habitat or some other such change that ought to be long-term and what we can't do for government is pay you to do that and then as soon as you get to the end of your 5-year scheme, plough it all up and start again because there was no point paying for you to do in the first place, and so there are appropriate uses for those regulations. If you don't like the way they've been used, there is an appeals process and Natural England manages the application of those regulations, if you don't like the way that they've been applied, there is an appeals process where the Secretary of State can judge whether they've been applied in the right way. So if the person asking the questions has got a particular worry, then I'd point them towards the complaints and then appeals process, which you can follow to make sure. That's your protection to make sure that the regulations are being applied in the right way.

Clive Bailye:
OK, so there's quite a relationship actually to answer your questions, because exactly what you say is spot on there for my own circumstances, if you were to pay me by results, say, for increasing soil organic matter, after 15 years of cover cropping and no-till and conservation agriculture, the best thing I could do to get the best results is plough it all up in year one and start again, because it's difficult for me to now make big gains, but I'm still performing the correct actions, so yeah, that makes sense. 

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, and we want you to maintain the progress that you've made, we don't want people ploughing things up and starting again because that's a really bad outcome for the environment, and yeah, of course, it's crazy. We want you to carry on doing what you're doing and to pay you to maintain that carbon level in your soil and so how do we fairly say to you well your result is that you maintain it and somebody else's result is that they increase it so it's not impossible but it's not obvious how to do it in a fair way.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, yeah, great, thank you. Can we have a set of rules from government that we can actually work with? It seems [through] SFI, government wants to encourage soil health, cover crops, organic matters and direct drilling, but we're told the Environment Agency are not wanting organic matter spread before sowing autumn crops. Why does buffering a watercourse [inaudible] so little, sorry it's a question within a question, it must be a simple win, ticking lots of boxes, price it a reasonable return for the farmer, and you're going to get good results from that.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, so I think we've covered the first bit which is that we do want to support those sustainable practices absolutely, and we're looking at how we do that through the whole range of levers that we have whether it's regulation, enforcement, scheme participation or grants, and we've got it in the same programme, the reason we've got all those things together in one programme is so that we can come up with a coherent way forward. That's quite a complicated task, it's going to take us a while, and we partly rely on farmers giving us feedback and telling us, and participating in co-design, what works and what doesn't, so if you're watching this and or listening to it and you think, why don't they do this, why don't they do that, why don't they think about this issue, please get in touch, we'd love you to take part in some of our workshops and our co-design and our user research, to help us really understand what works for you, because we are really committed to making sure this every form works for farmers, because if it doesn't and it doesn't work for anybody, we don't get the outcomes that we're here to achieve, so do get in touch and take part.

On pricing, we said in June that we were reviewing all prices under Countryside Stewardship and that we were also looking at how to set prices for the Sustainable Farming Incentive. We're going to be concluding that review before the end of this year and publishing an updated set of prices, so keep your eyes peeled for that. We have to go through quite a lengthy process to demonstrate that we can evidence the prices that we want to set and to get collective agreement around government, and that's the right set of prices, and we're doing that now, so watch this space, there'll be a further announcement before the end of this year. In principle, though, we do really recognise what's the thrust of that question, that we have to make this a sensible business decision for farmers to take part in producing environmental goods alongside the other goods that they produce on their farm. What we want is for people to be thinking about production in that broader sense of both food or whatever other products you produce agriculturally, and also wildlife, carbon sequestration, etc. and in order for that to happen we have to set fair prices and we very much do acknowledge that fact, and we've said that we've set a direction of travel and we'll come out later this year with further information about where that's headed.

Clive Bailye:
Great, and that that kind of echoes my own experience so far actually completing my my pilot application, where the feedback that I will be giving is there were various standards that I could easily have done and would love to have done, and I can definitely see would create big benefit, but the the kind of income foregone equation doesn't make it a sound business decision for me at the moment, so it's meant that I've not really done as much as I would have liked to have done under SFI, but hopefully I can feed that back in and maybe change the equation on that going forward.

Janet Hughes:
Yes, exactly, please do feed that back.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, great, so final question, would more desires of the SFI be met if farmers could elect to undertake individual actions rather than grouped into progressive levels?

Janet Hughes:
Possibly, and we're open-minded about that. We think at the moment based on everything we've done so far that to make the scheme attractive and appealing and easy to manage for as broad a range of farmers as possible, the right thing, and also to get the get the environmental outcomes and climate outcomes that we're here to try to achieve, the right thing to do is bundle actions together that make sense together and achieve impacts together and kind of hang together as a sensible set of things to do for farmers. But we are doing user research now and we're also doing the pilot and we'll see what happens in early rollout and if what we find is we need to add in more flexibility then we'll take a look at that. It's worth saying that the Local Nature Recovery scheme, we are expecting to be more at the level of individual options than actions and the difference between Sustainable Farming Incentive and Local Nature Recovery is Sustainable Farming Incentive is universal actions that can be taken anywhere by anyone and will be a good thing, look after your hedgerows, for example, whereas Local Nature Recovery is much more about the right thing in the right place, so making space for water-type actions, maybe planting trees, we don't want you to do that on peat bogs, we want to do that in the right place, and so there'll be particular things available to you that you can pick that have been prioritised for your local area on top of what you do in SFI, and that will be accessible to all farmers too, but we're at the beginning of quite a long sort of, long complicated journey here and what we need to do is discover what works and what doesn't and then we will adjust our course based on what we learn. So we are open-minded at this stage, that's our current hypothesis that standards are the best way to do this, and that's what we're testing through the pilot, but if it turns out that doesn't work for people then we'll change our minds.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, just just on that Janet, kind of a question of my own that ties in with that, the pilot hasn't been open to people that were in existing Countryside Stewardship schemes, I guess for simplicity for the pilot to start with, but at some point, how will some of those existing Countryside Stewardship options dovetail and tie in with SFI ultimately. Say for instance, I wanted to use, I've got a good, you know, various standards in SFI, but I wanted to pick and choose, say, AB15 legume fallow mix from the Countryside Stewardship scheme, will I be able to do that in the future, will it become all part of SFI, will CSS still exist as CSS? Is it going to work together? I'm a bit, personally, a bit confused about that.

Janet Hughes:
So eventually, every, all of the things that you do will be done through environmental land management schemes, whether that's SFI or Local Nature Recovery or indeed Landscape Recovery, and that will be the case from 2024-25 onwards. Between now and then, because we're taking this incremental approach to rolling out the new schemes, and we think that's right because all of the evidence shows, including in Defra’s history, but also the rest of government, if you do a big bang release, it will probably go wrong. In the same way that most farmers wouldn't just change their farming system overnight from one to another and just hope it was all going to be fine, normally you do that incrementally, we're doing the same thing with these schemes, and that means we're double running them for a while, and what we're wanting to make sure is that you can, during that time that we're double running, you can do exactly what you just described. So you can take a mixture of when, everything's not available yet through SFI, you can still do things through Countryside Stewardship, the exceptions to that are we don't want to pay you twice do the same thing obviously, so we're not going to pay you to do hedgerows both through SFI and Countryside Stewardship for the same hedgerow, and we don't want to pay you to do things that are obviously contradictory, so if you've said you're going to convert a particular area of land to whatever, woodland, we're not also going to pay you for an arable option on that piece of land because the two things would be contradictory. So long as the two things actually work together, so a hedgerow thing through Countryside Stewardship and a soil thing for SFI, for example, then you're fine. If they're contradictory or they duplicate, then we won't, you'll have to choose which one you want to do.

Clive Bailye:
Yeah, great, so ultimately I'd be able to pick and choose perhaps and use some of those rotations rather than just these more fixed features.

Janet Hughes:
Yeah, exactly, and then eventually we'll provide a route to migrate from your Countryside Stewardship agreements into environmental land management agreements, and we will do that in an extremely careful way because the last thing we want to do is mess that up and have people who were doing really good things now not able to do them, so it's very important, that’s mission critical work for us that we get that transition right and we'll work really closely with farmers to work out what's the best way to do that.

Clive Bailye:
Great, well that covers the questions, so really I'm hoping you get a good response to the pilot and everyone gives you lots of feedback, positive and negative, to help you improve and get this right over time. So thank you very much Janet.

Janet Hughes:
Thanks a lot for having me.

Clive Bailye:
No problem, speak again. Thank you.

Janet Hughes:
Bye.