The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) has today (Thursday, June 30) opened for applications in England.

It is available to all farmers who currently receive Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments, though it will eventually be open to all farmers.

For those with no other agri-environment agreements, they’ll be able to apply online straight away; for everyone else, they’ll be asked to let the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) know they want to apply and RPA will get in touch and support them to do so. 

This is to ensure that everyone receives the right level of service and support during this initial phase of rollout.

The scheme will open with two soil standards recognising the importance of health soil for successful farming and the environment, and a Moorland standard farmers will be paid to assess the condition of the Moorland as a basis for further action in future through existing and new schemes.

Farmers will receive their first payment three months after joining and will receive quarterly payments thereafter. There will also be no old-style application window, allowing farmers to enroll in the SFI scheme at any point in the year that is suitable for them.

Commenting, Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis said:

“The Sustainable Farming Incentive is designed to be accessible and recognises the importance of domestic food production to our national resilience.

“Farmers will receive payment within three months of their agreements starting, and payment rates are more targeted and less prescriptive than previous EU schemes.

“We want to support farmers with the choices they take for their farms, and I urge them to apply.”

Sustainable Farming Incentive

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the UK’s post-Brexit answer to the European Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP’s) BPS.

It works by rewarding farmers for actions they take, beyond mandatory regulations, to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way – the aim of this being an investment in long-term food security through great foundations in food production with regards to healthy soil, water and biodiverse ecosystems.

Specifically in 2022, the SFI aims to encourage actions that improve soil health and there will be three standards available:

Arable and horticultural soilsIntroductory£22/ha
Improved grassland soilsIntroductory £28/ha
Intermediate £58/ha
MoorlandIntroductory £10.30/ha
Intermediate £265/agreement

There will also be an additional annual payment of £6.15/ha for common land entered into a separate SFI standards agreement.

In the future, more standards will be introduced and farmers will be able to add these to an agreement, as well as increase levels and add land.

Standards will last three years.