Following the Secretary of State speech at the Oxford Farming Conference today (Thursday 4th January 2024), Defra have today published an update to the Agricultural Transition Plan. The changes announced are a very welcome step forward: supporting existing habitats and good practice, valuing grasslands, supporting upland farming, incentivising agroforestry and improving access, and simplifying the application process for the Environmental Land Management Schemes. More details will follow when the manuals for the scheme are published ahead of the summer when the new actions become available. 

Many of these changes FWAG have had the opportunity to contribute to the development of as part of our policy work with other organisations and Defra, and we thank Defra for the collaborative approach and consultation that they have undertake listening to the feedback from our members and advisers when forming the scheme.

Read the full Defra press release here: Biggest upgrade to UK farming schemes introduced by the Government since leaving the EU - GOV.UK (

Some of the key points are:

  • Updated payment rates for existing options, on average rates have increased by 10% but grassland habitats in particular have seen significant increases. To be automatically applied to existing agreements.
  • Options updated to give equal value to existing habitats to newly created and additional capital incentives for habitat creation with new capital grants to cover the initial costs. For example GS6 £182/ha increasing to £646/ha.
  • 50 new actions across a range of habitats including floodplain meadows, agroforestry, woodland management, peat soils, permissive access, precision farming and no-till systems.
  • Single streamlined application process for CS and SFI to be launched in summer 2024 with rolling applications. SFI will remain open until then and those applying now will be able to apply for new actions in a separate agreement when they become available.
  • There are new premiums for 21 of the actions that provide the biggest environmental impact.
  • Incentives for option combinations that deliver greater benefits and at scale.
  • Increased flexibility with more three year agreements and the ability to amend CS agreements annually.
  • Farmers in existing schemes will be able to apply for additional agreements to access new actions and will benefit from the increased payment rates on existing options.
  • Existing agreement holders will be able to apply for additional agreements and Defra plan to make it easier to amend agreements.

Further information has been published here: Agricultural Transition Plan 2021 to 2024 - GOV.UK (


An overview:

Mid Tier

  • Rolling application windows to open from summer 2024.
  • Agreement holders will be able to make annual amendments.


  • Significant increases to support for priority habitat grasslands for example GS6 species rich grassland increasing from £182/ha to £642/ha, with the restoration and creation options merging with maintenance to give equal payment for existing and new habitats.
  • New capital items for grassland restoration to be introduced to help with the upfront costs of habitat creation.
  • New options for species-rich floodplain meadows and managing scrapes and gutters.
  • Increase in payments for grassland supplements: GS15 Haymaking supplement increasing from £37/ha to £157-£187/ha
  • For illustration an upland farmer with GS5 Low Input Grassland with cattle grazing and haymaking supplements could see their payment rate increase from £227/ha to £367/ha.


  • New options for low stocking densities with variable rates depending on stocking level.
  • New supplements for cattle and ponies on moorland.
  • New Livestock Grazing management option.
  • Amended moorland re-wetting supplement. £181/ha
  • New supplement for fire and fuel break management.

Lowland peat

  • New options for raised water levels.


  • A wide range of new supplements for woodland management including ride management, historic features, managing ancient semi-natural woodlands and more.

Orchards and wood pasture

  • Changes to eligibility for traditional orchard payments to support management of younger orchards and for the creation of new orchards.
  • Merging of upland and lowland woodland pasture creation options.


  • Six new options for different agroforestry actions ranging from £248 - £849/ha


  • Three new options for stone walls, earth banks and stone-faced hedge banks

Water-bodies and wetlands

  • Five new options for watercourse buffers and floodplain water storage.
  • New pond and ditch management options.
  • Increased support for wetland mosaics, fens and reed beds.

Access and recreation

  • Increased payments for Educational access increasing to £363/ha from £318/ha
  • New options for open access (£92/ha), footpaths (£77/100m), bridleways (£158/100m)
  • New options for upgrading rights of way for people with reduced mobility, cyclists and horse riders.

Higher Tier

  • This will remain a separate application process but will be simpler, clearer and faster to apply for.
  • More Higher Tier options will be available in Mid Tier 

Facilitation Fund

  • There will be further rounds of an update Facilitation Fund in 2024.

Other important information included within the update includes:

  • Regulation post removal of Cross Compliance.
  • Expanding of permitted development rights for farmers.

Although the amended CS Mid Tier scheme will not be available until the summer, we think there is sufficient information within the update to start preparing applications ready to make an early application. If you have any questions or would like to speak to an adviser please get in touch.