Defra publishes details of ‘expanded’ SFI offer

Environment and climate
Tractors in a field of blue wildflowers

Following numerous calls from the NFU for Defra to deliver the detail on its SFI 2024 offer before the summer, the government has today unveiled a range of new actions and a streamlined application process.

Under the newly announced ‘expanded’ SFI offer, farmers will be able to apply to choose from 102 actions, including:

  • more than 20 new options, with payments for precision farming and agroforestry, plus actions to support flood preparedness, climate change resilience and ‘challenging’ weather conditions
  • an expanded offer for upland farmers, and
  • most actions will be for 3 years to support tenants on short-term contracts.

This new offering sees the launch of Defra’s much trailed plans to combine more than 50 actions from  CS (Countryside Stewardship) Mid Tier with actions from SFI to produce one single scheme which the government has said it will continue to call SFI. 

This offer also marks the first time new entrants will be able to apply for the scheme. The link to BPS eligibility has been removed.

The news follows No. 10’s Farm to Fork Summit exactly one week ago where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a package of support for farmers including a commitment to make temporary adjustments for some agri-environment scheme options following the recent wet weather.

See our manifesto asks on Defra environmental schemes.

Farming sectors feeling the squeeze

NFU Deputy President David Exwood said the scheme appeared to be “broader and more flexible”.

The devil will be in the detail, and the NFU will review the actions.

David said new moorland options had been a central ask to “recognise the role hill farmers play producing our food and looking after some of our most challenging and iconic landscapes”.

He urged farmers to take a close look at the developments and to consider how they can be applied on farm.

He added: “It is important now that Defra and the RPA ensure that all these schemes have the resources needed to make delivery a success, with clear timelines for the application processes which will provide further clarity and allow our members to put together comprehensive agreements needed for their farming businesses.

It is important now that Defra and the RPA ensure that all these schemes have the resources needed to make delivery a success.

NFU Deputy President David Exwood

“All farming sectors are feeling the squeeze following the cumulative loss of direct payments over the past four years and the slow transition to the ELM scheme.”

Referring to the NFU’s election manifesto, David said: “It's vital the next government looks at the agricultural budget to ensure the UK farming sector is resilient and thriving so our farmers and growers can continue doing what they do best; contributing to our national food security by producing sustainable, climate-friendly food alongside protecting and enhancing our precious environment”.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said he recognised the challenging start to the year on many farms.

He added: “The new, expanded SFI offer gives farmers more choice, makes things easier and pays out more, so they can get on with the important job of producing high quality food in a sustainable way."

When can I apply?

Farmers will be able to apply for the new, combined scheme from 22 July through one single application process. Expressions of interest have opened today for those willing to apply through the controlled roll out, ahead of the offer being fully self service in July.

The RPA will invite a mix of customers into the controlled roll out at the end of this month to fully test the service and gather representative feedback.

If you would like to be one of the first farmers to access the expanded SFI offer, you can complete a short expression of interest on the RPA website.

The full SFI handbook is available at: GOV.UK | Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme: expanded offer for 2024.

Information on CS Higher Tier will be published this summer with eligible farmers able to apply this winter for agreements starting in 2025. There will be a new, online approach to applications.

Applications will then stay open throughout the year, so you can choose when to apply. Agreements will normally start the month after your application is approved.

NFU Deputy President David Exwood urged Defra to supply these details “as soon as possible to help those ending agreements or anyone wanting to transfer across from Higher Level Stewardship”.

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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