Friesian dairy cows in a field with blue sky

DEFRA confirms six new standards for SFI

In June 2022, DEFRA launched the SFI with three standards:

  1. Arable and horticulture soils standard
  2. Improved grassland soils standard
  3. Moorland standard

DEFRA have confirmed that there will be six additional standards added to the Sustainable Farming Incentive in 2023:

  • Hedgerow standard
  • Low/no input grassland standard
  • Arable and horticultural land standard
  • Integrated pest management standard
  • Nutrient management standard

What you need to know:

  • If you already have an SFI agreement, you will be able to add these actions and more land.
  • SFI agreements last for three years.
  • If you’re a tenant farmer, you do not need landlord consent to take part. If you carry out the actions, payments will go to you.
  • You can leave the scheme early, with no penalty, if you unexpectedly lose management control of the land you’ve entered into the scheme.

More details are expected to be released in the coming weeks discussing the new standards in detail and the new SFI Management Payment.

In case you missed it: DEFRA are introducing a new SFI Management Payment of £20 per hectare, for up to 50 hectares of land entered in the scheme. This means farmers will receive up to £1,000 per year in addition to their agreement to cover the administrative costs of participation.

In the press release, there is also reference to an enhanced version of CSS known as 'Countryside Stewardship Plus', which will see around 30 additional actions available to farmers by the end of 2024. Again... no details on what these actions currently will be!

DEFRA have decided to evolve Countryside Stewardship to include what was originally planned for Local Nature Recovery, rather than introducing a new Local Nature Recovery scheme. DEFRA will continue to evolve the scheme over the course of this year and into 2024.

As the schemes evolve over the next 2 years, DEFRA intend to offer SFI and CS in a single, integrated service. You’ll be able to select a combination of actions from both schemes that work for you. Where there are similar actions in both SFI and CS we’ll maintain parity of payment rates across both schemes. So, if you're already carrying out actions in CS you are not at a disadvantage.

People with a CS agreement can also have a SFI agreement, so long as we are not paying for the same actions twice on the same piece of land, and the actions for which we are paying are compatible.

The scheme will include what’s currently available through the England Woodland Creation Offer, once that scheme has transitioned.

The next round of Countryside Stewardship Higher-Tier will open in February, with Mid-Tier following in March.

If you would like to speak to one of our experienced Land Agents regarding the Sustainable Farming Incentive or Countryside Stewardship agreements for this year, please get in touch.