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Applications for 2023 Sustainable Farming Incentive now open

| Mark Chatterton | 11 October 2023

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.

Apply early to secure your first payment in 2023

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.

Here’s a reminder of the new SFI additions for 2023

  • Payments will now be made every three months
  • There are more than twice as many new SFI actions in 2023 than was previously anticipated
  • There will be a payment to cover one on-farm vet visit per year, to assess livestock
  • Parity of payments across uplands and lowland areas
  • A management payment of £20 per hectare, for the first 50 hectares, will be made to cover participating farmers’ costs
  • There will be an additional payment for common land of £6.15 per hectare, for groups of two or more
  • A rolling application window - farmers can apply whenever suits them
  • More flexible requirements, so that farmers can meet requirements in a way that works for their farm. Actions can be rotated and added.
  • Farmers can pick and choose their own combination of actions in new ‘pick and mix’ structure, rather than being predetermined
  • No minimum or maximum land area or hedgerow length

More information on what the 2023 SFI scheme entails can be found here.

If you have any queries, concerns, or are seeking expert advice, our Agriculture team is on hand to help! Get in touch today.


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