Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) applications will be accepted from today.
The scheme will pay farmers in England to take action to support food production, farm profitability and resilience as well as protecting the environment.
This comes following last week’s announcement from Defra that SFI payments would be accelerated to meet the needs of farmers. Those with a live SFI agreement before the end of the year will receive their first quarterly payment – worth 25% of the annual value of their agreement – by the end of this year. This will typically be paid in the first month of their agreement starting.
The 2023 SFI scheme has been expanded and now offers more than twice as many new SFI actions as originally planned. 23 paid-for actions are on offer including on hedgerows, nutrient management, farmland wildlife and low input grassland, and improvements mean farmers can choose what combination of actions are right for them.
Secretary of state for food and farming, Thérèse Coffey, said: “I have been delighted by the registrations of interest from farmers across a diverse range of farm types in our new Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme. It highlights how the SFI has something on offer for every type of farmer.
“We’ll be working to get as many farmers onto the scheme as quickly as possible, so that they get payments in their pockets and are rewarded for the enthusiasm with which they are embracing this scheme.”
Hundreds of early adopter farmers were invited to apply ahead of today’s wider rollout, with applications already submitted and the first agreement under the SFI scheme already issued.
Farmers with existing Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreements are among these early adopters. They have already been invited to apply, and Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreement holders will be able to apply alongside those who are not yet in an agreement.
Farmers with SFI 2022 agreements are also able to express their interest to apply to the new scheme. Invitations to apply have already been sent to some SFI 2022 agreement holders who submitted expressions of interest, and they can begin their applications alongside everyone else.
Farming & Countryside Programme Annual Report
Defra’s annual report provides detail on how the farming budget has been allocated.
It details that commitments made to maintaining the annual farming budget at £2.4 billion per year on average is on track, with all spend released through reducing area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments made available to benefit the farming sector and farmers in England. Higher spend planned in the final year of the Parliament means the government will spend an average of £2.4 billion per year over the Parliament.
In 2022-23, £1.37 billion was spent on basic payments, having implemented two years of initial reductions. This compares with £1.8 billion in 2020/21 before payments started to be phased out. The spend on basic payments is reducing again this year to £1.1billion.
In 2022-23, the department has doubled spending on ELM schemes, increased spending on productivity and innovation grands and more than doubled funding available for the first round of the Slurry Infrastructure Grant.