Applications for 'improved' Sustainable Farm Incentive applications to open in August
22nd Jun 2023 / By Alistair Driver
The ‘new and improved’ Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) will start accepting applications in a controlled rollout from August, the Government has confirmed.
It said the scheme will offer farmers ‘additional actions and more flexibility to choose the actions they want to get paid for’.
Under the scheme, farmers in England will get paid for taking actions that support food production and improve farm productivity and resilience, while also protecting and improving the environment.
In reality there is little in there for farmers who keep pigs only, but the scheme will be of interest to mixed farms, especially those with arable land.
The 23 actions on offer cover existing themes including soil health and moorland, as well as new actions on hedgerows, integrated pest management, nutrient management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips, and low input grassland. Additional actions under SFI 2023 will help ensure there is an offer that is attractive and workable for all types of farms, Defra said.
The government has also confirmed the SFI management payment will be applied to all land-based SFI actions, including moorland, and has updated the payment rate for low input grassland action to make the rates the same for upland and lowland areas.
For tenant farmers, along with other improvements made in response to Baroness Rock’s review, there are shorter agreement lengths that do not require landlord consent. The SFI 2023 offer makes a range of actions and payments more accessible to those on short-term agreements, and includes a range of new actions not previously available in schemes.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “After listening to extensive feedback from farmers, we’ve done a huge amount to streamline and improve the Sustainable Farming Incentive, making it as simple and flexible as possible for farmers to engage with, apply for and embrace.
“We want farmers to be able to access a package that works best for them. The scheme will remain flexible to allow for the changing needs and requirements of both farmers and their markets to ensure the best outcomes for food production and the natural environment.”
What’s on offer under the new scheme?
- More than twice as many new SFI actions as originally planned
- A reliable income – payments are made every three months
- A management payment of £20 per hectare for the first 50 hectares to cover participation costs
- A payment to cover one on-farm vet visit each year to review the health and welfare of livestock
- The same payment rates for farms in upland and lowland areas
- An additional annual payment for common land of £6.15 per hectare for groups of two or more
- A full SFI 2023 handbook with confirmed payment rates and final details for each action
Defra said the scheme was straightforward to apply for online – farmers will only be shown the options available to their farm. Farmers can choose their own combination of actions in a new ‘pick and mix’ structure.
SFI actions and Countryside Stewardship (CS) options can be combined in the same parcels, and on the same areas of land within parcels, if the land is eligible for both schemes and the actions are compatible.
Defra has published a new SFI Handbook giving farmers all the detail they need in a single document. It has also produced sector-specific guides.
You can view the livestock guide HERE.
Applications for SFI 2023 will start to be accepted through a controlled rollout beginning in August. During the initial roll out period, when farmers sign into the Rural Payments service they will either be able to apply online or to contact the Rural Payments Agency, which will arrange for them to start an application.
SFI 2022 has now closed for applications to enable a smooth transition to the 2023 offer.