UK farming scheme incentives in 2023 could lead to loss of valuable grassland habitats

Our call to avoid adverse impacts on biodiversity through herbal ley payments in 2023

This briefing was created in November 2023, prior to the update to the Agricultural Transition Plan in January 2024. This update introduced 50 new actions, including more 'maintenance' actions, alongside improvement actions. This means that farmers can get paid more for existing actions to maintain habitats (for example, with the price of maintaining species rich grassland rising from £182 to £646 per hectare).

The original preamble read:

The National Landscapes Association is concerned that current payment rates for herbal leys provided under the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) will lead to the inadvertent loss of species-rich grassland and the loss of grassland that has the potential to become species-rich. We believe both grassland habitats are crucial for nature recovery and should be protected under SFI, not threatened. We are also concerned that, unless appropriate safeguards are introduced, the widespread introduction of herbal leys could have an irreversible impact upon native grassland plant genetics and on wading bird and fungi populations. This Briefing sets our concerns and potential amendments for Government to consider.