Elliot Taylor, Partner and Farm Business Consultant said “Today, the new Sustainable Farming Incentive Scheme opened and we are already seeing a strong interest."
The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) will be the first of three new environmental schemes delivered through the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).
The SFI will reward farmers for completing actions that benefit the environment. Farmers will be paid to provide public goods such as improving water quality, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and animal health and welfare.
This year the SFI will encourage actions to improve soil health. It will also support actions in moorland areas and will help to improve animal health and welfare by providing veterinary advice for livestock.
We know that SFI agreements will last for 3 years and there will be some flexibility to amend the agreements every 12 months. Farmers will be paid quarterly which will help with cash flow. The SFI will includes a set of land management actions or Standards where farmers will be paid for completing each Standard to a particular level, either introductory, intermediate or advanced. This year, there will be 3 Standards available. The Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard and the Improved Grassland Soils Standard will have the aim to improve soil health. There is also a Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard targeted for upland areas.
At first look the payment rates seem quite low and may not incentivise farmers to enter the scheme. However, it is likely that many farmers could already be meeting the requirements of the scheme and join the SFI without many changes. With this in mind the SFI is definitely be worth a look for most farmers.
It is also important to note that land in an existing agri-environment scheme agreement, such as Countryside Stewardship, may also be eligible for an SFI standards agreement if:
- you and your land are eligible for each scheme
- the activities you’re being paid for under each scheme are compatible
- you are not being paid twice for a similar activity or outcome on the same area of land at the same time (known as ‘double funding’)
As part of the SFI there will also be funding this year to improve animal welfare. Funding will be available for an annual vet visit providing bespoke diagnostic testing and advice.
Please contact the Rural team for further information.