Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) applications open in September

DEFRA has announced that SFI applications will open on the 18th of September 2023.  Below we have highlighted some of the key points and considerations.

Farmers should seriously consider SFI when applications open in September and the scheme now offers more freedom allowing you to choose options which suit your land.

What is on offer?

  • The SFI has 23 new actions, covering hedgerows, integrated pest management, nutrient management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips and low input grassland

Who can apply?

  • You will need to be eligible for BPS and have made a valid claim in 2022 or 2023.    This may change in future years so that any farmer can apply
  • Tenants can apply for SFI without seeking Landlord’s consent although they will need to be confident that they have management control for the entire duration of the SFI agreement

Can I add or remove standards once my agreement is live?

  • Yes – It is currently proposed that you will be able to add new actions to an existing agreement at the end of years 1 and 2.
  • You will not normally be permitted to remove actions from your existing agreement

Attractive support is provided for pollen and nectar flower mix

What actions and payment rates are on offer?

Soil actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Test soil organic matter and produce a soil management plan£5.80/ha + £95 per agreement
Multi-species winter cover crops (arable)£129/ha
Herbal leys (grassland)£382/ha

Moorland actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Assess moorland and produce a plan£10.30/ha + £265 per agreement

Hedgerow actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Access and record hedgerow condition£3 per 100m – one side
Manage hedgerows so there’s a range of heights and widths£10 per 100m – one side
An average of 1 tree per 100m£10 per 100m – both sides

Integrated Pest Management actions

SFI actionPayment rate
IPM (Integrated Pest Management) assessment and produce an IPM plan£989/year
Flower-rich grass areas£673/ha
Companion crop£55/ha
No use of insecticide£45/ha

Nutrient Management actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Nutrient Management assessment and plan£589/year
Legumes (improved grassland) growing during spring and early autumn£102/ha
Legume Fallow (arable) that flowers during late spring and summer£593/ha

Arable and Horticultural Land actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Pollen and nectar flower mix – flowing spring/summer£614/ha
Winter bird food (arable)£732/ha
Grassy field corners and blocks (arable)£590/ha
4m-12m grass buffer strips on arable land£451/ha

Improved Grassland actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Grassy field corners and blocks (grassland)£333/ha
Winter bird food (grassland)£474/ha
4m-12m grassy buffer strips on grassland£235/ha

Low Input Grassland actions

SFI actionPayment rate
Very low nutrient inputs£151/ha

I've already been discussing the potential of these new SFI options with local farmers. They are likely to be popular with those farming marginal arable land.

How will SFI payments works?

  • You will receive an SFI management payment of £20 per hectare per year up to the first 50 hectares entered into the scheme (maximum payment £1000 per annum)
  • Actions are paid according to the options and specific levels chosen as part of your application.   Details of the annual payment rates are set out in the table above
  • SFI payment are paid quarterly with the first payment starting in the fourth month after your agreement starts

How long will agreements last and what happens if I sell or give up land that I am farming that is entered into an SFI agreement?

  • An SFI agreement will last for 3 years and will commence on the 1st of each month depending on when the application was submitted.  You should receive an agreement offer within 3 months of submitting an application
  • It is not possible to transfer the agreement to another person if you sell or give up land that you have entered into an SFI agreement
  • If you need to end your agreement early, DEFRA may ask for repayment of monies received to date.  There will be no additional penalties applied for ending your agreement early.

How and when can I apply?

  • Farmers will be able to apply for SFI from the 18th September 2023, although you may register your interest from the 30th August 2023 through the online Rural Payments service.
  • There will be a rolling application window so claimants can make an application at any time
  • Application will be made via the online Rural Payments service only

Can I apply for SFI if I have an existing scheme in place?

Yes, you can still apply for other schemes, for example Countryside Stewardship, if you are not being paid for the same action twice on the same parcel of land (known as double funding) and you must ensure that the options are compatible

Land in receipt of BPS payments can be included in SFI

Land attracting private finance, such as carbon or flood payments, can be entered into SFI, but this is under DEFRA review

Will I need to submit an annual claim form?

  • Applicants will need to complete an annual declaring confirming that they have completed the required actions
  • You will not receive a final quarterly payment until this declaration has been completed.

Want to find out more?

We are here to help with potential applications and what this means for farmers so please call one of our experts on 01233 506201

Matthew Sawdon


Sophie Walker

Rural Surveyor

Thomas Hamplett

Rural Surveyor

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