With the end of 2021 fast approaching, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have finally provided details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) early rollout, due to occur in spring 2022. The proposed rollout, the first element of the Environmental Land Management Schemes, is a slimmed-down version of the Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot, the agreements of which are currently being implemented.
The SFI early rollout (SFI 2022) has seen amendments to the initial concept of the scheme, with policymakers listening to applicants’ and experts’ thoughts on the practicalities of operation. The agreements will last 3 years, with payments made quarterly. There will be no minimum or maximum land areas and applicants will be able to choose the specific land parcels included in the agreement. There will also be an element of flexibility to amend the agreement every 12 months – such as including additional land areas.
As with the SFI Pilot, the SFI 2022 requires applicants to enter land parcels into ‘Standards’, being:
The first two Soil Standards will be the focus for most applicants. These Standards will only have introductory and intermediate levels to start with. As with the SFI Pilot, the payment received is reflective of the level of Standard that is entered into.
A summary of the requirements and the related payments, per hectare, are summarized below:
Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard
Grassland Soils Standard
The advanced levels for both Standards are expected to be introduced from 2023. We have been told the Advanced Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard will focus on no-till and min-till farming.
Effort has been made to keep the Standards, and levels, as simple as possible to encourage implementation on the ground. However, there are specific nuances to several of the requirements, e.g. time requirements for the testing of soil organic matter. It is recommended that the full scheme is reviewed and considered in advance of the application window, which will be 10 weeks, opening in spring 2022.
The full scheme manual can be found at:
If you would like more information or to discuss the options available, please contact a member of our Rural Team.
As we move towards the end of 2021, the loss of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments is sadly no longer a future concern; it is very much here. It is a central consideration for budgeting and management decisions being taken now and as such it is more important than ever to ensure that all potential income sources are being utilised.
Going forward it is proposed that part of the BPS loss is to be filled by payments under the much-publicised Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS). ELMS are to be fully implemented by 2024 and, in anticipation of this, DEFRA is keen to introduce elements of the schemes now.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive
The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is one of three schemes within ELMS, providing payments at farm level. DEFRA sees this as a tool to allow farmers to have a different perspective over their land, focusing on natural assets and the best means to protect and enhance these. The SFI concentrates on improving biodiversity, tackling climate change and creating a greener landscape.
An initial SFI pilot is in the process of being rolled out, with the application window having closed at the end of September. The key role of this pilot is for participants to ‘test’ the scheme and its components and to be paid for their role within this. Applicants were limited to those receiving BPS payments and not currently in a stewardship scheme. The pilot is set to begin at the start of November 2021 and run for three years.
There are eight standards within the pilot, each subdivided into three ‘ambition’ levels. Payment rates have been set broadly equivalent to Countryside Stewardship, with the payments available reflecting the difference in work required for each level.
The table below provides a summary.
|Arable and Horticultural Land||£28/ha||£54/ha||£74/ha|
|Arable and Horticultural Soils||£26/ha||£41/ha||£60/ha|
|Improved Grassland Soils||£26/ha||£44/ha||£70/ha|
|Low and No Input Grassland||£22/ha||£89/ha||£110/ha|
|Water Body Buffering||£16/100m||£29/100m||£34/100m|
Alongside the pilot, a slimmed-down SFI is to be launched in the spring of 2022. This will be available to recipients of BPS and to be a more basic version of the options available within the pilot and the final ELMS (due in 2024).
This will focus on:
A full outline of payment rates is yet to be provided for the 2022 roll out, although they are expected to be similar to those in the 2021 pilot. It is expected that payments will be equivalent to a 30% uplift compared to similar Countryside Stewardship payments.
The SFI is being developed to allow greater flexibility and choice for the farmer and manager. We have been promised a move away from ‘penalisation’ of mistakes and errors and an openness to moulding the scheme to the individual holding. There will be the potential to add and remove parcels from standards and the ability to choose different levels for each standard. Farmers already in Countryside Stewardship are allowed to apply, however it is important to note that the principle of ‘no double payments’ is being adopted by DEFRA. Therefore, if a parcel is within an existing Countryside Stewardship scheme, it cannot be included in the SFI scheme until the initial scheme ends. Therefore, if you have an option on a parcel under Stewardship, you couldn’t enter the same option on the same parcel for SFI.
We would recommend that farmers and managers begin to consider the suitability of their land for an SFI application now, in order to be well prepared for when the application window opens in the spring of 2022. We would be more than happy to discuss the options available and to help in your application.
Please contact Alice for further assistance.
The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently opened expressions of interest for a trial of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). It is intended that the SFI will be open to all Basic Payment Scheme claimants next year as the first step in the move towards the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). Defra wants to trial parts of the SFI this year with several hundred farmers from different parts of the country and with different types and sizes of farms.
SFI will pay farmers for sustainable management practices above the regulatory baseline. There will be a number of standards from which farmers can choose actions which are best suited to their particular farm.
In the first phase of the pilot, farmers will choose from eight standards to build up an agreement. The standards and payments available under the first phase of the trial are as follows:
|Standard||Initial base rates (first phase of pilot only)|
|Arable and horticultural land standard||from £28 up to £74 per hectare|
|Arable and horticultural soils standard||from £30 up to £59 per hectare|
|Improved grassland standard||from £27 up to £97 per hectare|
|Improved grassland soils standard||from £6 up to £8 per hectare|
|Low and no input grassland standard||from £22 up to £110 per hectare|
|Hedgerow standard||from £16 up to £24 per 100 metres|
|On farm woodland standard||£49 per hectare|
|Waterbody buffering standard||from £16 up to £34 per 100 metres|
There will also be a participation payment made to all participants.
Within each standard in the pilot there will be three levels with increasing requirements and payments as you go up the levels. For example, under the Arable and Horticultural Land Standard, the actions and payments under each level are as follows:
|Introductory level (£28 per hectare)||Intermediate level (£54 per hectare). All actions in the introductory level plus||Advanced level (£74 per hectare). All actions in the introductory and intermediate levels plus|
|Provide year-round resources for farmland birds and insects||Improve nutrient use efficiency and reduce loses to the environment by carrying out a nutrient budget||Provide nesting and shelter for wildlife by having areas of tall vegetation and scrub|
|Better meet your soil requirements by following a nutrient management plan||Increase habitat for farm and aquatic wildlife through rotational ditch management||Benefit from crop pest predators by locating their habitats next to cropped areas|
|Minimise emissions of ammonia through rapid incorporation of organic manures and slurry on ploughed land||Better target your nutrient application by carrying out soil mapping||Use efficient precision application equipment for fertilisers and organic manures|
To be eligible for the trial, farmers must be claiming BPS and the pilot cannot be on parcels already in an agri-environment scheme (Higher Level Stewardship or Countryside Stewardship). They must have management control of the land until late 2024 and the land cannot be part of a common. Payments will be made monthly and those in the trial will still receive their payment under the Basic Payment Scheme as usual.
To be considered for the pilot, farmers must make an expression of interest, either via the Rural Payments Agency’s online system or a paper form. Those selected for the pilot will be informed in June 2021 and invited to submit an application. Applications will be processed during the summer with the first agreements going live in October.
If you would like to discuss the pilot further or make an expression of interest, please contact Andrew Jenkinson on 01280 818905 or email email@example.com or Polly Sewell on 01234 362933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.