A LEADING forestry figure has cautiously welcomed recent changes to farming funding in England that will support agroforestry for the first time. 

Ministers last week confirmed sweeping adjustments to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) offer, which included around 50 new actions that farmers can get paid for across all types of farm businesses.

Additions to the funding included new support for agroforestry and increased payment rates and extended contracts for woodland creation and maintenance.

And speaking in the wake of the announcement, Louise Simpson, executive director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF), welcomed the move, but warned it will be of limited benefit if trees are not correctly established. 

She said: “The many benefits of integrated tree and forest systems need to be recognised, be they environmental or commercial, and all of which should comply with the UK Forestry Standard.

"Whilst we appreciate that agroforestry has the potential to help us meet our planting and environmental targets, it will be of limited benefit if trees are not correctly established and maintained to maximise resilience, biodiversity and soil health.

“As a professional body the ICF is ideally positioned to provide support to governments and sector organisations, and would welcome further engagement in assisting landowners with finding professional advice and support.”

Forestry Journal: Louise Simpson, executive director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF)Louise Simpson, executive director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) (Image: Supplied)

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, where he announced the changes, Environment Secretary Steve Barclay also promised a review of rates for the England Woodland Creation Offer. 

Christopher Williams, chief executive of the Royal Forestry Society, said: “There is still some way to go before we can say that woodland managers are getting as good a deal as our farmers from the grant schemes. 

"It is, however, good to see more grants to support woodland management and agroforestry.

"We hope these will be sufficient to incentivise more land managers to implement best practice in managing their trees and woods.”

Mr Barclay said: "Farmers do the essential job of keeping Britain fed. That’s why I’ll back British farmers and help support farming businesses.

"We have listened to farmers’ feedback and set out the biggest upgrades to our farming schemes since leaving the EU, with more money, more choice and more trust to support domestic food production whilst also protecting the environment.

"We’re also making it easier for farmers of every farm type and size to enter the schemes, and I encourage everyone to take a look at how you can join the thousands of other farmers and land managers who are already receiving our backing through the schemes."

Full details on the new funding can be viewed here