Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) DEFRA Update

14 April 2021


Defra have published further information on the SFI with minor references to the local nature recovery scheme (tier 2) and Landscape Recovery (tier 3). Amid the rafts of repetition and tautology was some more useful details of the opportunities to come. I have tried to summarise below.

SFI Pilot:

DEFRA want “several hundred” farmers to pilot SFI in 2021

Expected timings:

  • March – pilot information published.
  • March – expressions of interest invited from farmers.
  • June – selected farmers invited to make application.
  • Summer – agreements processed.
  • October - first agreements go live.
  • November – first monthly payments issued.

In mid-2022, SFI will be made available to all BPS claimants.

Farmers will be rewarded for ‘Land Management Action’, and these actions will mostly have three levels with increasing levels of payment:

  • Introductory
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

The initial eight standards in the pilot are:

Standard Initial base rates (first phase of pilot only)
1. arable and horticultural land, £28 to £74/ha
2. arable and horticultural soils, £30 to £59/ha
3. improved grassland, £27 to £97/ha
4. improved grassland soils, £6 to £8/ha
5. low and no input grassland, £22 to £110/ha
6. hedgerow, £16 to £24 /100 meters
7. on farm woodland, £49/ha
8. waterbody buffering. £16 to £34 /100 meters

More than one standard can be applied to each piece of land, for example 1 and 2, plus 6 where a hedge adjoins the field.

Participants will be able to select different levels for different standards.
Of course, more standards will be developed and introduced arising from the ongoing test and trials programme.

There are 11 pages listing the various standards and the rates of payment, which I have not reproduced here, but by way of an indication for the arable and horticultural land standard:

Those who take part will get an additional payment for time spent in learning activities, a ‘participation payment’. This might require on average 10-15 hours per month of participation, but much of this time will be on farm ‘thinking while doing’ with a smaller proportion of ‘desk time’.

To be eligible to take part in the pilot a farmer must:

  • Be a recipient of the BPS, registered on the Rural Payments Agency system,
  • Enter land parcels into the pilot that do not have an existing agri-environment agreement on them,
  • Have management control of the land for the duration of the pilot (scheduled to run until late 2024).
  • Enter land parcels that are in England,
  • Enter land parcels that are not registered common land or shared grazing

In addition, public bodies are not eligible nor land with peaty soils and unenclosed uplands.

Tests and Trials will continue for the life of ELMS, and are therefore not part of the Pilot Scheme, it looks as if different farmers will be required

Pilots are likely to be launched for the Local Nature Recovery Scheme in 2022 and there are 10 planned Landscape Recovery pilots, also 2022.

The full document can be found here

Towards the end are the tables with all the proposed rates and requirements.

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