On 30 March 2022 DEFRA released further information about the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) following the pilot scheme which they ran in October 2021. We are urging farmers to seek advice on how they can take advantage of the scheme, which encourages environmentally sustainable farming and forestry.
Applications for the scheme are expected to open in June however the scheme currently has no closing date to allow applicants the flexibility to apply at a time to suit them. DEFRA has issued a statement stating they will give just six weeks’ notice when they decide to close applications for anyone wishing to be rewarded for environmental land management.
Initially it will only be open those businesses which are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme and the business (Single Business Identifier) must have at least five hectares of eligible land and five or more Basic Payment Scheme entitlements on 16 May 2022. Anyone applying must also have ‘management’ control of the land for three years by either owning the land or have an existing tenancy agreement in place tenancy as all agreements will be for three years. It is also possible to apply for existing funding for capital items for parcels included in an agreement, such as Countryside Stewardship capital grants.
Through the SFI, farmers will be paid to manage their land in a more environmentally sustainable way, which might include adopting integrated pest management, actions to improve soil health or water quality, or planting and managing hedgerows to provide year-round food, shelter and breeding cover for birds and insects.
Matthew Ayres, an Associate based at our Bedford office said: “The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is the first of three new environmental schemes being introduced under the Agricultural Transition Plan. The other two schemes are Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery. It is important that farmers fully understand how they can benefit from the scheme by being paid to provide public goods, such as improved water quality, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and animal health and welfare; we want to ensure that they realise the best return from their assets.
Anyone interested in applying for the SFI pilot is asked to contact our Agri-business team for more details.