Environment groups have warned that changes and delays to funding arrangements by the Government are leaving its ambitious new farming policy drifting from its core aim of ‘public money for public goods’ and ‘lagging behind schedule’.

The group of 17 environmental experts warn that the Government’s new plans to introduce a Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI) is greenwash and offers no value to taxpayers or to the environment.

The SFI proposals, which environmental groups have seen, propose paying farmers for activities which are simply ‘good practice’ and risk replicating the mistakes of older agri-environment schemes by paying farmers for ‘deadweight’ – easy activities which have no environmental impact.

Instead of the SFI, environmental groups are urging the Government to get the Future Farming and Countryside Programme, including the Environmental Land Management scheme, back on track.

In a letter sent to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the organisation said time is running out for the Government to publicise details of how schemes will work and the funding available for land managers, with uncertainty undermining confidence in the scheme from both farmers and environmentalists.

The organisations’ letter highlights that under current Defra plans: proposed transitional farming funding arrangements will neither prepare farmers for a future system nor deliver meaningful environmental improvement.

It also states that there continues to be no clarity on timings, objectives and vision for roll-out of a future Environmental Land Management funding scheme from 2025 and a national pilot to be rolled out next year.

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: “Environmental groups welcomed the Government’s ambitious future farming policy proposals with open arms.

“But with progress on farming funding arrangements stalling we look set to see traditional subsidies continue in the short-term, propping up our existing failing farming system and the problems that come with it.

“Without a radical shift in delivery to match the promised landmark shift in farming policy, farming funding will continue to do little to tackle our polluted rivers, disappearing hedgerows and woodland, exhausted soils, and declining wildlife.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said the group is “gravely concerned” that the SFI will prop up ‘business as usual’ and offer zero return for taxpayers and the environment.