Six new standards have been introduced to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme, meaning farmers can now choose from nine actions to get paid for in 2023.
When the SFI – which is the UK government’s post-Brexit answer to the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – was introduced in June 2022 it began with three actions, called ‘standards’, that farmers can undertake to get paid through the scheme.
These first three standards are: The improved grassland soils standard and arable and horticultural soils standard, both offering payments rates for introductory and intermediate levels, and the moorland standard, offered at introductory level.
Now, in 2023, the following standards join the list:
- Hedgerows standard - farmers will be paid to assess the condition of hedgerows and manage them in a way that will work for wildlife and improve biodiversity;
- Improved grassland standard - farmers will be paid for actions such as taking grassland out of management, managing grassland for winter bird food and establishing and maintaining buffer strips at the edge of fields – helping wildlife and biodiversity;
- Low input grassland standard – farmers will be paid to manage low input grassland to improve biodiversity, soil management and water quality;
- Arable and horticultural land standard – farmers will be paid for actions including establishing and maintaining areas of nectar-rich flower mix; establishing and maintaining flower-rich grass margins, blocks, or in-field strips; providing winter bird food; establishing and maintaining grassy field corners and blocks; and establishing and maintaining buffer strips;
- Integrated pest management standard – farmers will be paid to carry out an assessment and produce an integrated pest management plan; establishing and maintaining flower-rich grass margins, blocks, or in-field strips, including payments for not using insecticides and for planting companion crops;
- Nutrient management standard – farmers will be paid to make an assessment and produce a report of their management of nutrients, helping to encourage them to understand how they are managing nutrients and to take further action to deliver environmental benefits (e.g. optimise the use of fertilisers to limit excess nutrients flowing into watercourses). In addition there are payments for those who incorporate legumes into the crop and grassland management.
As farmers are able to upgrade their SFI agreements annually, those already participating in the scheme can add new standards into their agreements.
More standards under the SFI are expected in the future, with the full offer due to be in place by 2025.
The low input grassland standard, improved grassland standard and arable and horticultural land standard were originally set to be introduced in 2024, however it has been brought forward to help farmers.
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey, who today (Thursday, January 26) set out these new actions, commented:
“Farmers are at the heart of our economy – producing the food on our tables as well as being the custodians of the land it comes from.
“These two roles go hand-in-hand and we are speeding up the roll out of our farming schemes so that everyone can be financially supported as they protect the planet while producing food more sustainably.”