The Long Awaited SFI
At long last we find ourselves in a position whereby the long awaited 2023 SFI scheme has been opened for applications.
The scheme itself opened to applicants on 18th September but currently the only people who are permitted to apply are those who have been invited by the RPA. The RPA are currently working on a controlled roll out of the scheme to ensure that their automated computer system works and that when they open it on "general release" to everybody, it should all work fluently and without any issues.
In order to be contemplated for inclusion within the controlled roll out, you can pre-register your interest in applying for SFI with the RPA and we are currently receiving invitations for clients who have pre-registered to proceed with their application.
Another addition to the SFI, which was announced recently by the Government, is that anybody who applies for the SFI before the end of 2023 will benefit from receiving their first quarterly payment by the end of 2023.
In difference to previous environmental schemes run by the Government, SFI can be run in parallel with other schemes in your farming business. The only limitation there is, in regard to SFI agreements, is that the RPA will not double fund actions under two different schemes.
Therefore, even if you do have an existing Countryside Stewardship or Environmental Stewardship, it is still worth looking at the SFI Scheme alongside your existing environmental scheme as you can enter parcels that are that not already in another scheme into the SFI or, even if you have options on parcels, if there are alternative options under SFI which does not lead to double funding nor are they in contradiction with the CS / ES options, then these can be included in a SFI application. For example, if you had a field parcel in a permanent grassland option within a Stewardship Agreement you could enter that same field parcel into SFI with hedgerow options placed upon it.
Another advantage of the SFI is that there is a management payment of £20 per hectare of land which is entered into an SFI Agreement which is payable to all applicants for the first 50 hectares which are entered into an Agreement. This therefore equates to a payment of up to £1,000 which is made to help cover participation costs. A further difference between SFI and previous environmental schemes, is that there is no application window for the scheme. Once the application system is open to all, you can apply at any time of year, and payments will then be made quarterly, with the first payment made 3 months after the start of the agreement (unless you are able to apply in 2023, as detailed above).
In these ever changing times, with the continued reduction of Basic Payment monies, we urge everyone to look carefully at what is on offer under the SFI as an additional income stream for your farming business. If you are interested in obtaining funding from any of the options, then please do register your interest with the RPA or alternatively, get in touch with us and we will be happy to do this for you and then you will hopefully be in a position to apply in the very near future or as soon as the RPA open the application to everybody generally.
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