Farmers in England will be able to apply to join the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) from 30 June, Defra Secretary of State, George Eustice MP has confirmed.
This is the first part of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) programme to be put into practice. Initially, there will be three standards which can be applied for: arable and horticultural soils, improved grassland soils, and moorland.
First payments are expected to be received three months after joining the scheme and applicants will receive regular payments going forward.
The details of the payments are as follows. For arable and horticultural soils, the introductory rate will be £22 per hectare (ha), and intermediate payment £40. For improved grassland soils the introductory rate will be £28 and intermediate £58. Finally, for Moorland, the introductory payment will be £10.30, with a payment of £265 per agreement. There will also be an additional annual payment of £6.15 per hectare for common land entered into a separate SFI standards agreement.
We strongly recommend that farmers take a close look at the SFI, and consider its suitability for their own businesses
Commenting on the scheme opening for applications, CLA President, Mark Tufnell, said: “The CLA welcomes the news that the Government will be taking applications for the first series of standards within the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) from 30 June. The applications can be made on a rolling basis with payments following quarterly, and there is no deadline." Mark also stated: “We strongly recommend that farmers take a close look at the SFI, and consider its suitability for their own businesses. The first three SFI standards are focused on soils, and are designed to appeal to most farming systems. The standards are flexible - it is the farmer’s choice whether and when to enter into the standard(s), and at which level. Initially, the scheme is a three-year agreement, but farmers will be able to add more standards when available."
Looking to the future of the initiative, Mark concluded by saying: “There will be more SFI standards available in future years - including ones for nutrient management and integrated pest management, so this is just the start. The CLA is continuing to work with Defra to develop the new standards and ensure that the current ones are improved where needed.”