Rates for the 2022 Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme have been revealed by Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice today (Thursday, December 2).

"We will pay a more generous payment rate than previous EU schemes," said Eustice, who released details for the scheme at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) conference.

The future policy will not be about a single subsidy payment with lots of rules attached which is then used as an instrument of top-down, bureaucratic control.

"The new policy will be optional, but open to all. It will be modular. Farmers will be free to choose which elements work for them," he said.

Initially, scheme participants will be able to choose from three standards: Arable and Horticultural Soils, Improved Grassland Soils and Moorland and Rough Grazing.

The standard 2022 rates for these options are as follows:

  • Arable and horticultural soils: Between £22/ha and £40/ha. This is dependent on activity level. The introductory level includes testing of soil organic matter and 70% or more of land covered with green cover over the winter, while the intermediate level includes activities such as 70% or more of land covered with multi-species green cover;
  • Improved Grassland Soils: Between £28/ha and £58/ha, also dependent on activity level.  The introductory level includes activity such as producing a soil management plan, while the intermediate level includes herbal leys on at least 15% of land;
  • Moorland and Rough Grazing: £148 fixed per agreement/year, plus an additional variable payment rate of £6.45/ha for the introductory level. An intermediate and advance level will follow later in the rollout.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the UK's post-Brexit answer to the European Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP’s) Basic Payments Scheme (BPS), and the first of the environmental land management schemes to come.

"It [the SFI] focuses on soil health because the health of our soils is critical to improving both biodiversity, water quality and the production of a healthy crop," Eustice said in his speech.

There will be fewer rules and more trust. We will never address the complex environmental challenges we have unless we incentivise changes across most of the farmed landscape and that is what we aim to do."

Until now, minimal details have been released: the scheme will be launched in mid-2022, initially open to BPS recipients but eventually to all farmers and that it will reward farmers for actions they take - beyond mandatory regulations - to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way.

In the future, new SFI standards will be introduced, which will include:

  • Integrated pest management, nutrient management and hedgerows (2023);
  • Agroforestry, remaining levels of the moorland standard, low and no input grassland, water body buffering and a farmland biodiversity standard (2024);
  • Organic, on-farm woodland, orchards/specialist horticulture in (2025).

The SFI aligns with Eustice and the governments overall aim for agriculture which is to achieve - in Eustice's words - a future generation of farmers who "feel the satisfaction of seeing nature return to their land; seeing the health of their soils improve - and their profitability improve with it".