Sustainable Farming Incentive 2022
March 13, 2023

The long awaited update on the future of farm support was made in late January.  We recently hosted the Defra team to give you an update on this and this article will provide a round up on this update.

Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)

The main points to keep in mind about SFI are;

  • 3 initial standards launched in 2022 are available through the rolling application process
  • 7 standards are being launched in summer 2023
  • agreements are for 3 years
  • agreements can be reviewed annually

Sustainable Farming Incentive 2022

Three standards were launched last year, with the soil standards each having 2 levels of ambition; being introductory and intermediate.  All of the requirements of introductory have to be met and then additional requirements achieved to meet the intermediate level.  The third standard is moorland.

The applications for SFI 2022 are open all year round and are made through the Rural Payments online portal (the same portal through which Basic Payment claims and Stewardship applications are made). Once submitted, applications are reviewed by the SFI team and an agreement offer should be made within a month.

The application process takes you through your field parcels and allows you to select the fields you want to apply the options to and tells you as you go through if the parcels are available, and if there are any conflicts with other schemes or designations.  If you have an existing environmental or countryside stewardship agreement in place on your holding you do need to be mindful of double funding in the selection of your SFI options … you cannot be rewarded twice for the same actions.

The agreements are a commitment of 3 years, with an annual agreement review period in the month before the anniversary of the agreement, when agreement holders can increase ambitions and land areas.  Reductions in ambitions and land areas can only be made in exceptional circumstances or due to the removal of parcels from your holding through sale or loss of tenure.  For tenants, there is no requirement for landlord consent to enter SFI and it is acceptable that the tenant enters the agreement with the intention to carry out the actions for 3 years even if their tenancy is due for renewal in that time period.

Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023

There have been 6 further standards released this Spring that include;

  • hedgerows
  • improved grassland
  • low-input grassland
  • arable & horticulture land
  • integrated pest management
  • nutrient management

The government has also added a management payment to all future and existing SFI agreements of £50 per hectare, up to a maximum of 50 hectares, so a maximum payment of £1,000 per year.  This payment recognises the administrative burden on farm businesses of not only applying but the ongoing administrative burden of the agreement, and is particularly aimed at supporting smaller farms.

There are no levels of ambition for the 2023 standards, but instead a range of actions to choose from under each.  The intention is that it will allow farmers to build a scheme that is ambitious for them and achievable on their holding rather than being restricted to options within levels.

Further details on the options under each standard can be found here; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environmental-land-management-update-how-government-will-pay-for-land-based-environment-and-climate-goods-and-services/environmental-land-management-elm-update-how-government-will-pay-for-land-based-environment-and-climate-goods-and-services#new-sfi-standards-for-2023

The 2023 standards will be available this summer for new and existing SFI agreements.  It is understood that those that apply for SFI now will be able to add these new standards in to their agreements ahead of the agreement review window.

Countryside Stewardship

Applications for Countryside Stewardship will continue this year under the same process as previous years, however mid tier (which opens 21 March) will be an online application with mapping selection similar to the SFI application process, which will raise conflicts on land parcels in real time.

The window for Higher Tier applications opened on 7 February and closes on 28 April.  As in previous years these applications will be made with the support of your local Natural England officer.  These agreements focus on designated or special habitats for restoration or protection and can include bespoke arrangement for management.

Rates across all types of Countryside Stewardship have been adjusted (mostly increased) following a review of the revenue and capital options. A significant rise will be noticed in many of the capital options reflecting the increase in the cost of materials. For full details on options please look to https://www.gov.uk/countryside-stewardship-grants.

For further details on capital grants and other grant opportunities take a look at our news page.

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