Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “After listening to extensive feedback from farmers, we’ve done a huge amount to streamline and improve the Sustainable Farming Incentive, making it as simple and flexible as possible for farmers to engage with, apply for and embrace.
SFI 2023: What’s on offer
- More than twice as many new SFI actions as originally planned
- A reliable income – payments are made every three months
- A management payment of £20 per hectare for the first 50 hectares to cover participation costs
- A payment to cover one on-farm vet visit each year to review the health and welfare of livestock
- The same payment rates for farms in upland and lowland areas
- An additional annual payment for common land of £6.15 per hectare for groups of two or more
- A full SFI 2023 handbook with confirmed payment rates and final details for each action
A simplified scheme
- The scheme is straightforward to apply for online – farmers will only be shown the options available to their farm
- SFI is less prescriptive than before, so farmers can choose their own combination of actions in a new ‘pick and mix’ structure
- There’s no minimum or maximum land area or hedgerow length, so farmers can choose how much land to cover with their SFI agreement
- SFI actions and Countryside Stewardship (CS) options can be combined in the same parcels, and on the same areas of land within parcels, if the land is eligible for both schemes and the actions are compatible.
Defra has published a new SFI Handbook giving farmers all the detail they need in a single document, including which SFI actions can be done on the same land as Countryside Stewardship (CS) options, Environmental Stewardship (ES) options, and other SFI standards and actions. It has also produced sector-specific guides.
Applications for SFI 2023 will start to be accepted through a controlled rollout beginning in August. During the initial roll out period, when farmers sign into the Rural Payments service they will either be able to apply online or to contact the Rural Payments Agency, who will arrange for them to start an application.
SFI 2022 has now closed for applications to enable a smooth transition to the 2023 offer.
NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “It’s encouraging that the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) for 2023 appears to be an improved, broader and more flexible offer, changes that the NFU has been asking for.
“Farmers and growers will need to take a close look at all the options being made available and consider how these can be applied on farm.
“We understand Defra intends to offer a ‘smooth transition’ for over 3000 farmers who joined the SFI22 scheme, which it is closing. We await the detail about what this transition will look like, but given their early commitment and the lessons learned, these farmers must be treated fairly and rewarded during the transition, should they wish to take up a SFI23 agreement.”
Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: “We are pleased to see further details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive offer for 2023, which includes a number of improvements.
“These changes show DEFRA is committed to responding to the feedback received from farmers on the ground, helping to ensure the scheme works for as many businesses as possible.”