The National Sheep Association (NSA) greeted last week’s announcement of the launch of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) pilot, the first element of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), with enthusiasm and is now encouraging eligible sheep farmers to sign up.

As the start of the transition from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) begins, invitations for expressions of interest have been launched for farmers and land managers in England to shape the development of the new environmental schemes which will replace it.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “NSA has been working with Defra, alongside a number of organisations involved in agriculture and the environment to reach this stage and will continue to work tirelessly to support the development over the coming months and years.”

Defra is looking for several hundred farmers from varying farm types and geographical locations across England to take part in the first phase of piloting to make sure the SFI works in practical terms.

Stocker continued: “This is a wide-reaching opportunity to assess the scheme and potentially to be part of the development [co-design] of a significant and extensive change, that can further enhance the role sheep farming plays in our rural landscape.”

The window to register interest opened on Monday, March 15 and closes on Monday, April 11, 2021.