Farmers can sign up for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) from 18 September, DEFRA has confirmed, with the CLA warning officials that any further delays will harm the sector.
The SFI window was due to open in August, but the Government has now said farmers can apply from mid-September and will be invited to register their interest from today (Wednesday, 30 August) by the Rural Payments Agency.
Country Land and Business Association President Mark Tufnell said:
“I firmly believe that the ‘public money for public goods’ model is the right one – for farmers, for the public and for the environment.
"The Environmental Land Management schemes will work, but it is impossible to ignore the impact that continued delays are having on the confidence of land managers to engage with them.
“As a first step to reestablishing that confidence, DEFRA Ministers must recognise the immediate cash flow problems many farmers across England will be having, as BPS cuts bite.
"There is no room left for further delays, and Ministers must redouble their efforts to ensure applications are processed and payments are made as soon as possible.”
The SFI pays farmers for taking actions that support food production, farm productivity and resilience, whilst protecting and enhancing environment.
There are 23 actions on offer under the 2023 scheme, including on soil health, moorland, hedgerows, integrated pest management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips, and low input grassland.
Meanwhile the application window for 2024 Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier agreements has been extended until Friday 15 September.
Farmers are able to be in SFI and Countryside Stewardship at the same time, as long as the actions are compatible, and they are not being paid for the same action twice.
CLA's agricultural transition hub here to help
The CLA has set up an agricultural transition hub to help members navigate the new schemes.