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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Wet weather and temporary adjustments to agri-environment agreements

Looking south-west from the top of Worcester Cathedral Tower, it shows flooded meadows and fields on the far side of the River Severn.
Credit: James Clark

Between October 2023 and March 2024, England experienced the second wettest 6-month period on record. The rainfall was nearly 60% above the 10-year average. 

Heavy rainfall has a devastating and long-term impact on farming, with soil erosion, crop damage and flooding. This disruption not only affects the livelihoods of farmers and land managers but also has wider implications for food security and the economy.

In addition to the package of support offered through the Farming Recovery Fund, we have introduced temporary adjustments and easements within the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), the SFI Pilot, Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) to support farmers and land managers dealing with the impacts of severe weather in England. 

Essentially, if bad weather has caused disruptions to your farming activities or affected your ability to meet the mandatory requirements set out in your agreements, the adjustments allow more time to establish or defer some activity to later in the year. 

Today we published official guidance on these temporary easements and adjustments on GOV.UK.

The adjustments recognise that weather conditions are beyond the control of farmers. They are designed to provide flexibility during this difficult period. They cover the period from 1 October 2023 to 31 July 2024 for agreements that are now live. 

The adjustments will automatically apply – you don’t need to submit a request.  

In some cases, you may not have been able to attempt an action or option due to being underwater. If this applies to you and you do not believe you can meet the aims of the option or action within the temporary adjustment provision, you must contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

You’ll need to fill in a minor and temporary adjustment form for ES and CS and tell us about a change of circumstance for SFI to amend your agreement. This detail is already available in the Extreme weather guidance for farmers and land managers on GOV.UK. 

It’s a good idea to keep evidence such as farm records showing field operations at a land parcel level, associated invoices and photographs of how you have been affected in case we need to see them. 

In this post, we'll share a summary of the actions and options. As mentioned, details of the adjustments and easements for each action are on GOV.UK. 

Please note that the following tables (which mirror those on GOV.UK), may not cover all the options and actions impacted by the wet weather. If this is the case for you, contact the RPA, they’ll talk through your options.  

Environmental Stewardship

ES code   Title  
EB6 / OB6   Ditch management  
EB7/ OB7   Half ditch management  
EG1/ OG1   Undersown spring cereals  
OB14   Hedgerow restoration  
OF23 / EF23   Supplementary feeding in winter for farmland birds  
EK3  Permanent Grassland with very low inputs 
EL3  Permanent grassland with very low inputs in the SDA 

Countryside Stewardship

CS code   Title  
AB1   Nectar flower mix  
AB4   Skylark plots  
AB5   Nesting plots for lapwing and stone curlew  
AB7   Whole crop cereals  
AB9   Winter bird food  
AB10   Unharvested cereal headland  
AB11   Cultivated areas for arable plants  
AB12  Supplementary feeding for farmland birds 
AB13   Brassica fodder crop  
AB14   Harvested low input cereal  
AB15   Two year sown legume fallow  
AB16   Autumn sown bumblebird mix  
GS2  Permanent grassland with very low inputs outside SDAs 
GS5  Permanent grassland with very low inputs in SDAs 
GS4   Legume and herb rich swards  
OP2  Wild bird seed mixture 
OP3  Supplementary feeding for farmland birds 
OP4   Multi species ley  
OP5   Undersown cereals  
SW1   4-6m buffer strip on cultivated land  
SW2  4-6m buffer strip on intensive grassland 
SW3   In field grass strips  
SW4   12-24m watercourse buffer strip on cultivated land  

Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)

SFI code   Title  
LIG 1  Low input grassland 
LIG2  Low in put grassland 
AHL1  Pollen and nectar flower mix 
AHL2  Winter Bird food on arable and horticulture 
IPM2  Flower rich grass margin 
IPM3  Companion cropping on arable and horticultural land 
NUM3  Legume Fallow 
SAM3   Herbal Ley 
HRW2  Manage hedgerows 
SAM2  Winter cover crop 
AHL4  4m to 12m grass buffer strip on arable and horticultural land 

SFI Pilot 

The SFI Pilot has groups of actions which form a standard. SFI Pilot agreement holders must meet all actions to achieve the standards. The table below shows which actions within each standard are subject to easements.

SFI Standard  Action affected 
Arable & Horticultural Land Standard 


Provide resources for birds and pollinators on eligible land (Introductory, Intermediate, Advanced) 
Support a wide range of farm wildlife 
Manage ditches 
Arable & Horticultural Soils  Establish green cover 
Improved Grassland (Land)  Manage fields for grazing 
Control cutting on silage fields 
Manage ditches 
Introduce clover and other legumes on improved grassland (Intermediate, Advanced) 
Add or retain a mix of legumes, herbs and grasses 
Low / No Input Grassland  Leave margins uncut 
Manage ditches 
Manage fields for grazing 
Waterbody Buffering  Establish grass buffer strips 

No easements apply to the Farm Woodland Standard or Hedgerow Standard.

Further flooding support 

In addition to this immediate relief, we are also supporting farmers to build greater resilience into farm businesses and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather long-term.  

Farmers are eligible for support through the Flood Recovery Framework. We recently blogged about support for farmers affected by Storm Henk.

This also includes a grant of up to £2,500 as part of the Business Recovery Grant.   

We are introducing new actions with flood mitigation benefits to our environmental land management offer this year. These include actions to reduce flood risk, restore and enhance floodplains, and better storage of flood water.   

Through Landscape Recovery, we are funding river restoration projects that have direct flood mitigation benefits. These will restore water bodies, rivers and floodplains to a more natural state, reducing nutrient pollution, benefiting aquatic species, and improving flood mitigation and resilience to climate change.   

Earlier this year, we announced a one-off fund of up to £75 million to help Internal Drainage Boards in England recover from recent flooding and modernise infrastructure. 

The government is also investing £5.6 billion as part of a 6-year plan (2021-2027) to better protect communities across England from flooding and coastal erosion.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Tony William Powell posted on

    This sounds like a most sensible approach, and here's hoping it could still provide a lifeline not only to struggling farmers and other land managers but also to our wildlife populations, which are equally dependent on nature's kindness.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell


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