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Sustainable Farming Incentive now open

30th June 2022

The Sustainable Farming Incentive Scheme has launched today, 30th June 2022. This being one of the schemes to be incorporated into the ELM’s (Environmental Land Management) schemes. The SFI scheme has been trialled for nearly 2 years, from today  Farmers and Landowners who are currently claiming BPS on over 5 hectares on land across England will be offered the opportunity to submit an application and claim.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive offers agreements of 3 years in which amendments can be made every 12 months. This is a change from the Country Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier schemes being 5-year schemes with no flexibility once a scheme is put in place. Also, the flexibility of the SFI means that Farmers don’t have to put all their land in the first year and can add as much or as little as they like over the three years. As well as being more accessible, there is also no requirement for landlord permission for the tenant to enter the scheme in 2022 yet checking their tenancy agreement to check they can apply is fundamental.

Another key point added to the Sustainable Farming Incentive is there will be no fixed penalty for exiting the scheme within the 3 years under exceptional circumstances, such as loss of management control on their land.

Currently the SFI includes 3 standards that Farmers/Land managers can apply for that provide different payment rates. These include; arable and horticultural land soils, Grassland soils and  Moorland and Rough grazing. Additionally within the SFI an Animal Health and Welfare review is being offered with different payments rates for the following animals- cattle, sheep and pigs.

Within the pilots taken over the last year, DEFRA have been working with Farmers and other land managers to manage and conserve to benefit the ecosystem services. As a result of this, when the grant scheme opens, Farmers/land managers will be able to apply for different ambition levels to different parcels on their farm. The test and trials have proven beneficial to DEFRA, listening to farmers and their conflicting views specifically in areas such as minimum tillage/ no tillage techniques, has meant that offering these elements in the first release DEFRA felt was too early to lack of information and needing more time for testing and understanding.

Further details on some standards are listed below:

Arable and Horticultural Soils Standards specifics:

  • Available at 2 levels- introductory (£22/hectare per year) or intermediate (£40/hectare per year)
  • Both levels will require farmers to:
    • Test soils for organic matter
      • Develop a soil plan
        • Ensure winter cover crops are in place for 70% of entered land
        • Apply organic matter each year to 1/3of the land entered
  • Intermediate level will also require a sown green cover crop ( mix of grasses, legumes, herbs and wildflowers) in place over the winter months for 20% of the entered land.

Grassland Soils Standard specifics:

  • Available at 2 levels- introductory (£28/hectare per year) or intermediate (£58/hectare per year)
  • Both levels will require farmers to:
    • Test soils for organic matter
      • Develop a soil management plan
        • Ensure at least 95% green cover on land over the winter months
  • The intermediate level requires that herbal leys are established and maintained on 15% of the area entered.

Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard Specifics:

  • Will only be available on land above the Moorland Line, with the release in 2022 at the introductory level only of (£148/agreement and £6.45/hectare)
  • Farmers need to assess their moorland by looking at:
  • Soil types
  • Peat depth
  • Associated vegetation
  • Intermediate and advanced levels will apply in future years

Animal Health and Welfare review

  • The payment will help to cover costs of the vet, testing for endemic diseases and conditions and  your time as the farmer.
  • You can apply if you farm over 10 cattle, 20 sheep and 50 pigs.
  • Payment rates are:
    • £684 for a pig review
    • £436 for a sheep review
    • £522 for a beef cattle review
    • £372 for a dairy cattle review

There is no closing date for the scheme and applications can be made at a time convenient for the farmer, with the start date of your SFI depending on when your application is submitted. This is also dependent on how long it takes to process and when the subsequent offer is accepted. Payments will be made quarterly in arrears as a pose to annually, again seeing this positively affecting farmers cashflow.

If you have any further questions, or wish to submit an application, please contact:

Oswestry Office-  01691 655334

Welshpool Office- 01938 554499