‘Defra has to get this right’ – SFI23 offer revealed

Environment and climate
An image of a hedgerow along a farm

Following repeated calls from the NFU for the government to give the full scheme details across all the Environmental Land Management schemes, the SFI23 offer has now been published with supporting guidance to follow.

At this year’s Lincolnshire Show, Farming Minister Mark Spencer unveiled the government’s planned rollout of the SFI23 offer, which includes 23 actions and flexibility for farmers with a ‘pick and mix’ style structure for choosing combinations of different actions.

The actions areas like cover soil management, hedgerows, IPM, nutrient management, moorlands, farm wildlife and low input grasslands.

The application process will begin with a controlled rollout from August. Initially, a limited number will be able apply to test the new application system. Any problems will be resolved before it is rolled out more widely. You should contact the RPA in the normal way if you want to be part of the initial testing.

To read our breakdown on the details of the scheme, visit: SFI – scheme information and guidance

A broader and more flexible offer

NFU Vice President David Exwood welcomed the publication of the full offer, which he described as “broader and more flexible”, something which “the NFU has been asking for”.

David said that farmers and growers will now need “to take a close look at all the options being made available, and consider how these can be applied on farm”.

Changes include:

  • The creation of standalone soil actions, so they can be tacked with other SFI actions. This follows NFU lobbying to unbundle SFI22 actions.

  • A management payment of £20 per hectare for the first 50 hectares to cover participation costs to be applied to all land-based SFI actions. This will be available on moorland.

  • It will be possible for SFI pilot participants to enter SFI23 on the pilot land. We heard this called for many times during the recent SFI Roadshows.

  • There’s no minimum or maximum land area or hedgerow length, so farmers can choose how much land to cover with their SFI agreement.

david exwood crop 04

Defra has to get this right. If SFI and the wider ELM scheme is to be successful, it needs to be simple, flexible and provide certainty so there’s widespread uptake.

NFU Vice President David Exwood

Farmers will also have the option to combine SFI and CS options in the same parcels, and on the same areas of land within parcels, subject to certain requirements.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said the scheme had been streamlined following “extensive feedback from farmers” and with the aim of ensuring farmers can “access a package that works best for them”.

SFI22 – 'Farmers must be treated fairly'

Applications for SFI22 have now closed with Defra promising a “smooth transition” for more than 3000 farmers who applied.

The government has confirmed they’ll be in touch with applicants to explain how this transition will work and how they can access the payments and benefits outlined under the 2023 offer.

This process will need to align with the roll out of the SFI23 offer.

David insisted that “given their early commitment and the lessons learned, these farmers must be treated fairly and rewarded during the transition, should they wish to take up an SFI23 agreement”.

“Defra has to get this right. If SFI and the wider ELM scheme is to be successful, it needs to be simple, flexible and provide certainty so there’s widespread uptake.”

“It’s in all our interests to ensure sustainable, climate-friendly British farming, with farmers being paid to produce high-quality food alongside their work in managing and protecting the great British countryside.”

See our manifesto asks

Our manifesto

Our general election manifesto – Farming for Britain's Future – outlines our key asks of the next government to ensure farmers and growers can continue to deliver for the environment, economy and local communities while producing more of the great British food we all enjoy.

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