The Oxford Farming Conferences in January always provide a good energy boost after Christmas, and this year was no exception. With OFC’s theme being diversity this year, it reminded us of what a fascinating industry we all work in. Back at our day jobs now, we’ve been mulling over a few things we took away:
Farming HAS to be more diverse if it is to be more successful – and we need to challenge ourselves and the industry to face up to that.
On the flip side – there is already an amazing amount of diversity within farming – just think of the halal market for UK lamb and mutton.
Diversity and resilience go hand in hand – think biodiversity, diverse revenue streams, diverse people with new ideas.
Down the road, a hugely varied agenda often means you can make the ORFC conference your own – but some real highlights were:
The debate about livestock and their role in a warming world was expertly handled by the Sustainable Food Trust. It was an excellent discussion on how the broader debate has become skewed between products without similar nutritional values (think CO2/kg values). It is well worth watching the session when it goes online – it was refreshing to be reminded of all the other broader services that both animals on the farm, and farms in general provide.
Bale grazing was another favourite from the conference. Innovative Farmers are doing some fantastic work in this area, supporting farmers to test and learn from different bale grazing practices. Over-wintering has such potential – both from a cost reduction perspective, animal welfare, and of course, for farmer health (just think the time saved mucking out if your animals are outdoors!).
Of course, it wouldn’t be the January conferences without a government update – and this time they were busy announcing new payments for SFI. There are some exciting developments, including over 50 new actions for SFI:
Maintenance payments for agroforestry, which will help unlock a better business case for many farmers wanting to try this.
New payments for water management – including waterbody buffer strips, riparian habitats, and flood/drought resilience features on arrange land.
Moorland low and limited grazing payments
Actions for precision farming and no-till
Overall uplift to SFI payments by 10% on average to help account for the increase in cost of delivering many of the SFI actions.
You can find more details here– although there is still more detail to come from Defra on the requirements for each action. That is promised later this year.
We’ve also been promised a single application service that will combine CS and SFI and see comparable actions more easily across the funding streams. We await that with bated breath.
So, a busy start to the month, but undeniably encouraging. Both in the diversity showcased at the Oxford Farming Conferences and the promising announcements for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). As we return to our day-to-day roles, let's keep the spirit of diversity alive, challenging ourselves and the industry to embrace the multifaceted nature of farming. The upcoming developments in SFI payments, including those for agroforestry, water management, and precision farming, signify a positive trajectory. With the prospect of a streamlined application process combining CS and SFI, we look ahead to a future where innovation and resilience meet for a more sustainable and diverse agricultural landscape.