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Sustainable Farming Initiative Scheme – Expressions of Interest Open

DEFRA have launched the new Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI) Scheme which is part of the ELMS. Several hundred farmers will be involved in the first phase of piloting, with the scheme set to be further rolled out in 2022.

What is the objective?

The aim of the SFI is to compensate you for taking actions to manage your land in an environmentally sustainable way. These actions will be grouped into packages and set out as standards, to help you identify which actions are most suited to their land. This simplification process is to make life easier all around – but also to try and attract farmers not currently in an environmental scheme.

How does the application process work?

We are awaiting details of the application process, but DEFRA aim for the application process of this scheme to be far less administrative than previous schemes and will use the early piloting they are running this year to improve the process. One of the key aims is to expand the level of “self-declared information” from farmers, with less need for verification from photos and inspections.

What are the payment rates?

An indication of the first phase piloting payments are:

Arable and horticultural land standard

from £28 up to £74 per hectare

Arable and horticultural soils standard

from £30 up to £59 per hectare

Improved grassland standard

from £27 up to £97 per hectare

Improved grassland soils standard

from £6 up to £8 per hectare

Low and no input grassland standard

from £22 up to £110 per hectare

Hedgerow standard

from £16 up to £24 per 100 metres

On farm woodland standard

£49 per hectare

Waterbody buffering standard

from £16 up to £34 per 100 metres

One major issue here is that the rules behind these payments wont be published until after the expression of interest window has closed! The guidance should be published in early June.

A significant improvement under this scheme is that payments will be made monthly in arrears, rather than annually.

How can I get involved?

Expressions of interest to take part in piloting are now open and closes on 11th April. The selected farmers will be asked to submit an application in June, to begin in October with the first payments being received in November 2021.

If you are already in a Countryside Stewardship scheme, you wont be able to run this Scheme on the same land, but if you only have part of your farm in CS then will be able to run SFI on any remaining land.

It is very early days of the scheme, and you may well think it would be sensible to allow others to iron out the mistakes this year and look at this scheme next year instead!

If you would like to discuss this, or for help in applying for the scheme, please do not hesitate to get in touch!


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