New SFI actions on offer from August

Farmers and land managers in England will be able to apply for 23 actions under the 2023 Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme from August. And Defra says it has made the process simpler to remove the need for land agents to be involved. The government body says the application process can be turned around in just two weeks.

There are 19 new actions, including payment for hedgerows, integrated pest management, nutrient management, buffer strips and farmland wildlife. A further four actions are carried forward from 2022.

Participants will be encouraged to choose individual options which best suit their farms under a more flexible, “pick ‘n’ mix” approach, rather than prescriptive, one-size-fits-all rules of previous environmental schemes.

The range of actions means farmers could be paid £10/100m for managing one side of a hedgerow, £129/ha for multi-species crops, £589 a year for a nutrient management review, and £989 a year for an integrated pest management plan.

Following lobbying from the NFU, the Country Land and Business Association, the Tenant Farmers Association and others, farmers in the uplands will receive parity in payments for all options. In practical terms, this means a farmer managing low input grassland will receive £151/hectare no matter where they farm.

Applications for a controlled roll-out will begin in mid-August, then there will be a rolling window with farmers able to apply at any time. Those farmers who enrolled in SFI 2022 will be served notice to end that agreement and then they will be invited to join SFI 2023. Three actions not available in the new scheme are: adding organic matter to soils, having at least one crop species in the ground over winter on arable land, and having no more than 5% of your grassland uncovered over winter. Closure payments will be paid for these discontinued actions.

Farmers will receive an SFI management payment of £20/ha for up to 50ha of land entered into the scheme in recognition of the administrative costs.

SFI options will be able to be combined with Countryside Stewardship options on the same parcels of land, but farmers cannot be paid for the same action under both schemes.

Full details of the new SFI 2023 are available in this 151 page booklet.