At yesterday’s Cereals event the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made a speech which offered farmers and landowners information around the wider set of reforms under the agricultural transition and more specifically on the rollout of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) in 2022.

The first options under the ‘early rollout’ of SFI will be available to all farmers who are Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claimants from next spring including those who are currently under an environmental scheme such as Countryside Stewardship or Environmental Stewardship.

SFI is designed to accelerate the large-scale adoption of more sustainable approaches to farming and its initial scope will be limited to these core elements:

Arable and horticultural soils standard

Improved grassland soils standard

Moorland and rough grazing standard

Annual health and welfare review

These quite broad brush standards will mean the early SFI will be accessible to a wide range of farmers who can sign up and start claiming some additional funding as BPS falls away. Defra has pledged to make the first SFI payments to farmers before the end of 2022.

The SFI standards will be set at three levels – Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced – with farmers able to choose the level they sign up to. First year payment rates for the Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard, for example, will be set at per hectare rates of £26 (Introductory), £41 (Intermediate) and £60 (Advanced). As the SFI is gradually rolled out it is expected that more standards will become available such as for farm woodlands, hedgerows, watercourse buffering, improved grassland, low and no input grassland, farmyard infrastructure.

At Cheffins we will be on-hand to help farmers take this next step towards agricultural reform. It will be interesting to see how the industry reacts to this first set of standards in 2022. Inevitably, those who have shifted over to no or min tillage techniques or who have adopted measures such as winter cover crops will be better positioned to take advantage of the higher payments where something like the soils standard is concerned. However, most farmers should be able to tap into the entry-level payments and other measures will become available as the SFI rollout accelerates.

Separately, DEFRA is undertaking a review of payment rates of existing schemes including Countryside Stewardship (CS) with changes to payment rates expected to be announced later in 2021 in advance of payment rates being adjusted ready for 2022 claims. We are hopeful that this will lead to more favourable terms for a number of the CS options. Changes to payment rates will apply to existing CS agreement holders as well as new agreements, but not to Environmental Stewardship agreements.

For further information, contact Katie Hilton on