The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is now open for applications in England. It marks the first stage of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme being put into practice.
Initially, there will be three standards which can be applied for: arable and horticultural soils, improved grassland soils, and moorland. More standards will be released in future years.
For arable and horticultural soils, the introductory rate will be £22 per hectare (ha), and intermediate payment £40/ha. For improved grassland soils the introductory rate will be £28/ha and intermediate £58/ha. Finally, for Moorland, the introductory rate will be £10.30/ha, with a payment of £265 per agreement. There will also be an additional annual payment of £6.15/ha for common land entered into a separate SFI standards agreement. Most eligible farmers will have at least one standard they can enter into.
There is no pressure to apply immediately as there is a rolling window for the application process. First payments are expected to be received three months after joining the scheme and applicants will receive quarterly payments during their three-year agreement.
As farmers we do not have to choose between our role in feeding the nation, and our role as stewards of the natural environment. We can do both
Flexibility is a core part of the programme and is designed to allow choice on whether to join, and at what level of ambition, plus farmers can add new standards as they become available. The thinking behind the scheme is about farmers being rewarded for the environmental benefits of the way land is managed, including those who are already taking action.
Commenting on the opening of the application window for the Sustainable Farming Incentive, CLA President, Mark Tufnell, said: “The opening of the SFI application window marks the beginning of the transition towards Environmental Land Management Schemes. We recognise it is a time of uncertainty for farmers, but encourage everyone to look at the new schemes with an open mind.”
Mark continued: “Those that are eligible to receive BPS, but who do not participate in existing agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship, or claim BPS on common land, can complete the application process straight away. For everyone else, they can register their interest and will be able to complete their applications in the coming weeks.”
In closing, Mark summarised by saying: “As farmers we do not have to choose between our role in feeding the nation, and our role as stewards of the natural environment. We can do both. As a result, it is important that these schemes work, and I encourage our members to contact the CLA or the RPA directly should they need support in understanding SFI 2022 soil standards and the application process.”