The government has announced that the new and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) for 2023 is now open for applications.
The revitalised scheme will pay farmers in England on a quarterly basis to take actions that support farm profitability, resilience, and food production, whilst simultaneously protecting and enhancing the environment.
Thousands of farm businesses of all shapes and sizes have already registered their interest in the 2023 SFI scheme with the Rural Payments Agency, and will now begin their applications to seek approval.
In response to farmer feedback, the 2023 offer has now expanded and been made more flexible, offering more than twice as many new SFI actions than were originally planned. There are a total of 23 paid-for actions on offer, which includes nutrient management, farmland wildlife, hedgerows and low input grassland.
In previous years, actions were typically grouped into standards for farmers to pick one, however, from this year, farmers may choose which combinations of actions are best suited to them, adopting a ‘pick-and-mix’ approach.
Farmers who have a live SFI agreement before the end of 2023 will receive their first quarterly payment, which is worth 25% of the annual value of their agreement, by the end of this year. Typically, this sum will be paid within the first month of the agreement starting. With thousands of expressions of interest already in the scheme, we’re pleased to report that there is no limit on the overall number of applications that can be accepted.
The Secretary of State for Food and Farming has stated that the government will be working hard to get as many farmers onto the scheme as quickly as possible, to encourage prompt payments as a reward for embracing the scheme.
The application process has been automated, allowing farmers to apply online and speed up the processing of agreements, meaning that most businesses can get started in their agreement within just a few weeks of applying, rather than having to wait for several months like in previous years.
Farmers with existing Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreements are expected to be among the first to apply. Those with SFI 2022 agreements are also able to apply to the new scheme, with some invitations to apply having been sent prior to applications opening.
More information on what the 2023 SFI scheme entails can be found here.