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The Sustainable Farming Incentive - What we know so far...

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Updated guidance on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) has been published this week with Secretary of State George Eustice confirming the launch of the SFI scheme in Spring 2022.

Initially the SFI will focus on four core elements with all the elements of the scheme expected from 2024/25 onwards. Each element or standard contains a group of actions with three levels of ambition; basic, intermediate, and advanced. Potential applicants are encouraged to consider what their current management delivers and whether they can improve their environmental management practices with a financial reward..  Please note, payment rates for 2022 are not confirmed yet.

The four core elements are:

  • Arable and horticultural soils standard
  • Improved grassland soils standard
  • Moorland and rough grazing standard
  • Annual Health and Welfare Review
The Sustainable Farming Incentive - What we know so far...

Soil Standards

Soil health is a major focus for this scheme and the arable and horticultural soils standard and improved grassland standard will be the first to be offered to farmers and land managers.

A runoff and soil erosion risk assessment is highly likely to be required at the most basic introductory level of the SFI soils standards.  This will cover identifying erosion and run-off risk, pathways, potential for nutrient leaching or loss through field drainage. A soil management plan to improve soil structure, soil carbon, soil biology and reduce flooding could be a more advanced requirement (and higher payment). Further incentive payments will be available to implement actions such as  incorporating cover crops, increasing soil organic matter, reducing compaction, using cultivation techniques such as min-till and direct drilling or oversowing.

Indicative annual payment rates for the soil standards (per hectare):

Improved grassland standard

  • Introductory - £26
  • Intermediate - £44
  • Advanced - £70

Arable and horticultural soils

  • Introductory - £26
  • Intermediate – £41
  • Advanced - £60

Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard

For Moorland farmers, the Moorland and Rough grazing standards will be on offer. There will only be one level of ambition for this standard; likely to be focussed on identifying pressures on moorlands and the risks posed by wildfire. The payment rate for this standard is currently under development.

Annual Health and Welfare Review

A fund has been announced to cover yearly visits from a vet, providing diagnostic testing and advice on improving livestock health and welfare.

This will be available for all commercial cattle, pig and sheep. Depending on the livestock type, payments will range from £269-£775 per annum.

How can ADAS support you

As UK Agriculture enters a new era it is important that farmers review all aspects of alternative income in order to grow or maintain sustainable businesses. Our teams of FACTs and Basis qualified agricultural and agribusiness consultants can offer clear, practical on-farm advice on all aspects of business management, soil health and nutrient planning, which will be a lynch-pin in accessing the SFI soil standards. Based across England, our teams can conduct soil sampling and analysis, advise on nutrient application, and assist with writing tailored compliant soil management plans, whilst assessing the financial impacts on your business

We offer our farm clients a soil health scorecard with an easy to understand ‘traffic light’ scoring system of how their soil health ranks and offer practical recommendations on ways to improve.

If you are interested in SFI but remain unsure of requirements or would like advice about applying, please do get in contact with Agri-Environment Consultant Fiona Tweedie 

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