Expansion of Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI): Published May 21, 2024

The announcement of the expanded and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) brings further opportunities for farmers and landowners.

The expanded Sustainable Farming Incentive Scheme is due to open for applications in July and will include options previously available in the Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier, as well as actions announced at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Key Benefits of the Expanded SFI Offer

1. Diverse and Comprehensive Actions:
The expanded offer provides a significant increase in actions available and there are now a total of 102 to choose from. More than 20 of these actions are new and have been crafted with input from the agricultural sector. Many of the other additional actions were previously available under the Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme; these have been updated and bundled into SFI to allow all actions to be selected under one application process.

Headline changes to actions include:

  • New agroforestry initiatives that provide payments to establish low density in-field agroforestry systems.
  • Expanded options specifically for upland farmers.
  • Additional amendments to provide for tenant farmers, including decreasing the duration of some options under 5 year Mid-Tier agreements to 3 year SFI options.

2. Welcoming New Entrants:
For the first time, new entrants to farming can benefit from the SFI. Prior to this announcement, you needed to have been a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) eligible farmer. This inclusivity ensures that all farmers, regardless of their experience or land holding, can participate in and benefit from the payments available.

3. Enhanced Flood Preparedness:
With the increasing challenges of climate change, the SFI now includes actions to help farmers prepare for and mitigate the impacts of floods. These measures will support farmers in building resilience against extreme weather events and changing climate conditions.

Further Support and Tools

Defra have indicated that they will introduce an educational access action later in 2024. This will enable payments to farmers and land managers to provide educational tours of farms or woodland.

Digital Tool – 'Find Funding for Land or Farms':
A new digital tool has been launched to help farmers identify and apply for the funding options that best suit their needs.

This tool outlines each of the 102 options and details land eligibility, payment rates, the action's aim and the practical requirements for each action.

Controlled Rollout and Eligibility

The expanded SFI offer is currently in a controlled rollout phase. Farmers interested in participating can express their interest and apply via the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website. The full offer will be available to all eligible farmers from July 2024.

Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier Agreements

Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier Agreements are set to continue as a standalone scheme, and is due to open for applications towards the end of this year.

Conclusion

The expanded SFI offer represents a significant step forward for farmers and landowners, providing new opportunities to embrace sustainable farming practices. With an array of new actions, improved payment rates, and a simplified application process, the SFI is set to be the most popular scheme yet.

If you would like any further information, or assistance with the application process, please contact our office. 

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