Sustainable Farming Incentive applications are open

The scheme, which pays farmers in England to take actions supporting food production, farming profitability and resilience, has expanded to become more flexible and introduce wider eligibility.

road in between brown wooden fences

In total, there are now 23 paid-for actions covered by the initiative, including work to improve hedgerows, better nutrient management, introducing and nurturing wildlife on farmland, and switching to low-input crop and grass cultivation. 

Whereas in the past, actions were grouped together in categories, feedback from agricultural stakeholders suggested this was too prescriptive. The updated offering allows farmers to choose the combination of actions they want to take, depending on their specific circumstances, location and the environmental conditions. 

Those interested must register with the Rural Payments Agency to begin the application process. Businesses with a live Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) agreement in place by the end of 2023 will receive their first quarterly payment – 25% of the annual contract value – before January, and typically within one month of signing up. 

A rolling application window has also been introduced, allowing farmers to submit documents as and when is convenient for them. Accessibility for tenant farmers has been improved, too, through the introduction of shorter-term agreements, with payments made every three months. Differences between upland and lowland area payments have been levelled, with rates now set at £20 per hectare for the first 50 in a bid to cover participation costs. 

You can find out more about the UK Government scheme here, and read a full annual report about benefits here to the environment and businesses here. Any farmer that began an application into the now-closed Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier initiative before the deadline passed, or who have submitted land changes, are advised to apply.

More on agriculture: 

Regenerative agriculture is essential to avoid UK food crisis

Largest study of nature-friendly farming in England begins

WATCH: Can we feed the world without destroying it?

Image: Werner Sevenster


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