Sustainable Farming Incentive - Update

First published: 07 July 2021

On 30 June, Defra published an update on the Agricultural Transition Plan which primarily focused on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme. To read more on Defra’s announcement click here.

Defra’s recent announcement provides more detail about what the initial phase of SFI22 will cover. The scheme will be subject to development reflecting on the on-going SFI pilot scheme. It will be available to all BSP claimants next year, even those who already have an agreement under an existing agri-environment, providing the same actions are not already being paid for.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Soil health is the key to delivering our targets on the environment and improving farm profitability. Well managed soils can lead to increased biodiversity, improved water quality and reduced carbon emissions. Our new Sustainable Farming Incentive will eventually be open to every farmer in England and will incentivise a shift towards more sustainable soil and grassland management.”

The incentive will support approaches to farming that deliver for the environment, such as actions to improve soil health, hedgerows and integrated pest management.

The core elements of the Sustainable Farming Incentive that will be available in 2022 are:

  • arable and horticultural soils standard
  • improved grassland soils standard
  • moorland and rough grazing standard
  • Annual Health and Welfare Review
Soil Standards

The scheme offers two main soil standards, arable and horticultural soils standard and a improved grassland soils standard.

These standards will support farmers to undertake actions to maintain and improve the condition and structure of their soil to promote clean water, and improve climate resilience, biodiversity, and food production. Farmers will be rewarded for management practices which will enhance soil heath by improving soil structure, organic matter, and soil biology.

Indicative payment rates for soil standards

Defra has published indicative standards and payment rates. These are subject to change following testing, below is an outline of the proposed standards at present:

Improved grassland soils (per hectare):

  • introductory: £26
  • intermediate: £44
  • advanced: £70
  • Arable and horticultural soils (per hectare):
  • introductory: £26
  • intermediate: £41
  • advanced: £60
Moorland and rough grazing standard

There is limited information available on the Moorland and rough grazing standard, Defra hope to develop it over the summer months to finalise the standard by November 2021. Defra plans to offer an introductory level available to all moorland farmers, including those in Countryside Stewardship.

Animal Health and Welfare

The animal Health and Welfare initiative is part of a the industry and government’s shared long term goal to produce healthier, higher welfare animals. The aim of the review is to get a better understanding of the health and welfare of the national herd and flock and enable government to target future support in the right way at both farm and national level.

As a starting point, Defra will fund an annual visit from a vet or vet-led team. Defra’s intent is that this is a time limited offer for three years. The Review will include diagnostic testing for priority diseases or conditions, and bespoke advice on health, welfare, biosecurity and the responsible use of medicines. Payments are expected to range from approximately £269 to £775, varying by species.

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