NFU calls for SFI application improvements as early payments issued

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The first farmers to sign up to the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) have started to receive their early payments, worth 25% of the annual value of their agreement.

According to Defra, more than 14,000 people have registered their interest, with those whose agreement started on 1 October 2023 receiving the early payment this week.

This, the government said, would help with cashflow against a background of high inflation and rising input costs.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said the progress was “encouraging” and welcomed the initial payments, adding that “it’s important now that all farmers who signed up early get a payment before Christmas”.

Expressions of interest set to end

Looking forwards, David said: “What we need to see now is expressions of interest converted into agreements. It’s also important that Defra and the Rural Payments Agency continually look to improve the online application process to make it as easy and as smooth as possible.”

From the end of this week, farmers will no longer need to submit registrations of interest and will be able to apply directly online.

Those farming on commons should continue to express their interest with the RPA (Rural Payments Agency) who can support them to get ready to apply.

You can contact the RPA either via email: [email protected] or phone: 03000 200 301.


It’s important now that all farmers who signed up early get a payment before Christmas.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

Defra Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey said: “We are engaging with farmers and taking onboard their feedback to continually improve the scheme, including delivering on our commitment to introduce early payments and taking steps to simplify the application process.”

Bridging the financial hole

News of the accelerated payments came after heavily criticised delays to the SFI which had made it unlikely farmers would see money this year.

“It was important for government to bridge the massive financial hole in farm support caused by issues with the changeover in support schemes from the old Basic Payment Scheme to SFI,” David added.

“Looking ahead, it is vital that details for the SFI24 are presented at the earliest opportunity, in order to provide farmers, particularly those in the uplands, the confidence they need to plan for the future.”

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