Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 open for applications

Farmers can now apply for Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme to get paid for taking action to protect and enhance the environment while producing food sustainably and profitably.

As of yesterday (18th September), invitations to apply have been sent out to farmers who have already registered their interest in the scheme with the Rural Payments Agency.

SFI 2023 has been expanded and made more flexible in response to farmer feedback and now offers 23 paid-for actions including on hedgerows, nutrient management, farmland wildlife and low-input grassland.

A new ‘pick and mix’ structure ensures farmers can choose a combination of actions that works for their business, unlike previously where actions were grouped into standards.

According to Defra, thousands of farm businesses of all types and sizes have already submitted an expression of interest, and the first agreement under the new SFI scheme has been issued.

As per last week’s announcement, farmers 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, and there will be no cap on what individual farmers can do in the scheme or overall numbers of applications.

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.

“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.”

Among the early adopters of the scheme were farmers with existing Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreements. Those with existing SFI 2022 agreements are also able to express their interest, and invitations to apply have already been sent to some SFI 2022 agreement holders.

In addition, Defra has put in place an automated service that will enable farmers to apply online and agreements to be processed more quickly than in previous years, meaning most applicants can get started in their agreement within a few weeks.

Farmers are encouraged to pre-register for the scheme and then await an invitation to apply, with Defra confirming these will be sent out as quickly as possible. This is to ensure farmers are supported to have all necessary information in place, including online maps and land use/cover details, so they are ready to proceed when invited to apply.

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