Today we had had an announcement from DEFRA that the Sustainable Farming Incentive will launch in June 2022 along with confirmation of what initial standards will be available and the accompanying payment rates.

As the launch of SFI nears we will publish more detailed information but for now set out a basic overview of the new scheme to come.

What is the SFI?

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of the new schemes that will be available under ELMS and the Agricultural Transition Plan. The scheme will pay farmers to deliver public goods.

When will the application window open?

The new scheme is set to launch in June 2022 and unlike Countryside Stewardship will operate on a rolling application window (i.e. all year round), rather than a set application deadline.

All applications are to be made online via the Rural Payments Service.

How long is the agreement?

An SFI agreement will last for 3 years with payment made on a quarterly rather than annual basis.

What will be available under the 2022 SFI?

During 2022, three standards will be available:

  • Arable and horticultural soils – introductory and intermediate level
  • Improved grassland soils – introductory and intermediate level
  • Moorland – introductory and additional payment

The SFI capital grants will not be available during 2022 however the existing Countryside Stewardship Capital Grant offering could be applied for.

Separately to the environmental standards, the annual health and welfare review will also be available to livestock farmers during 2022 and can be applied for regardless of whether you have an SFI standards agreement.

What will I be paid?

The arable and horticultural soil standard offers a payment of £22/ha at an introductory level and £40/ha at an intermediate level. The improved grassland soils standard offers a payment of £28/ha at an introductory level and £58/ha at an intermediate level. The moorland introductory level offers £10.30/ha.

Who can apply?

From 2022 the scheme is open to BPS claimants only.

Can I apply for SFI if I am already in a Countryside Stewardship agreement?

Land that is already managed under an existing agri-environment scheme, for example, Countryside Stewardship, could be eligible for the SFI provided that you aren’t applying to be paid twice for the same options.

Is the current SFI offering it?

No, this is the initial offering available from 2022 however DEFRA have confirmed that the standards available will be expanded each year and higher levels will be added for existing standards so that a full offering is in place by 2025.

If you take out an SFI agreement in 2022 there will be the opportunity each year to add more standards and increase the level within an existing standard. However, you wouldn’t be able to remove or reduce standard levels.

What extra standards can we expect as the scheme evolves?

In 2023 we can expect the addition of:

  • Nutrient management standard
  • Integrated pest management standard
  • Hedgerows standard
  • Advanced levels of the 2 soil standards

In 2024 we can expect the addition of:

  • Agroforestry standard
  • Low and no input grassland standard
  • Water body buffering standard
  • Farmland biodiversity standard
  • Intermediate and advanced levels of the moorland standard

In 2025 we can expect the addition of:

  • Organic standard
  • On-farm woodland standard
  • Orchards and specialise horticulture standard
  • Heritage standard
  • Dry stone walls standard

Do I need to submit an annual declaration?

Yes, agreements will need to submit an annual declaration.

Do I have to include the whole farm at the same standards level?

No, you can pick and choose which fields to put into an SFI scheme and you are able to have an introductory standard on one field and an intermediate on another.

How do I need to manage the land under SFI?

The level of management that is required depends on the standard and level within that standard you have chosen.

For more details on what the SFI requires click to read our blog HERE.