The government has announced the list of standards and the application opening date for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) 2023.
The improved SFI will start accepting applications in a controlled rollout from August. There are 23 actions on offer covering existing themes, including soil health and moorlands and new actions on hedgerows, integrated pest management, nutrient management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips and low input grassland. The government says that these additional actions will help ensure there is an offer that is attractive and workable for all types of farms in England.
SFI 2023 - What is on offer
- Payments will be 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
The government says that SFI is less prescriptive than before, so farmers can choose a combination of actions in a new ‘pick and mix’ structure following lobbying from the CLA to make SFI more accessible. There is also no minimum land area or hedgerow length, so farmers can choose how much land to cover with their SFI agreement.
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.
A SFI 2023 handbook has been produced containing payment rates and final details for each action. The handbook contains detail on which SFI actions can be done on the same land as CS options, Environmental Stewardship options and other SFI standards and actions. Sector-specific guides will help farmers see what is on offer for their farm type.
We are pleased to see further details of the SFI offer for 2023, which includes a number of improvements such as the addition of new payment options, and a considerable simplification allowing farmers to be paid for more options. Publication of the detailed handbook is most welcome.
“These changes show Defra is committed to responding to the feedback received from farmers on the ground, helping to ensure the scheme works for as many businesses as possible. We look forward to the scheme being rolled out to farmers in August, and strongly encourage them to look very closely at all that is on offer", continued CLA President Mark Tufnell.
“We note that some 3,200 farming businesses will have to reapply for the schemes. It is a pity that the process could not have been smoother for these businesses, we will press Defra and the Rural Payments Agency to ensure further procedural improvements are made where necessary.”
Farming Minister Mark Spencer says: “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.”