NFU calls on Defra to publish details on new SFI offer

Environment and climate
NFU Vice President David Exwood stood next to a hedgerow on a farm

Four months after applications for SFI reopened, Defra has announced it has received more than 10,000 applications from farmers.

The SFI opened for applications in 2023, with those having secured agreements in that year receiving an advanced payment in the first month of their agreement.

Since re-launching, Defra has streamlined the application process to give farmers greater flexibility when choosing actions.

The news follows Defra Secretary Steve Barclay’s announcement in January that there will be at least 16 new actions, and that Defra would look to explore another 41 CS (Countryside Stewardship) actions to be made available in SFI. These should be available to apply for from this summer as part of a combined SFI/ CS offer.

‘Clear timeline’ still needed

NFU Vice President David Exwood said he was “encouraged to see such positive engagement from the farming community with SFI”, adding that it was important for all farmers to be able to access the offer.

“But we now need the detail behind the new SFI actions announced in January such as support for precision farming and uplands and moorlands, and a clear timeline for the application process. This will provide further clarity and allow farmers and growers to put together a comprehensive agreement for their farming businesses,” David added.

We now need the detail behind the new SFI actions announced in January.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

From this summer, it should be possible to apply for SFI and CS Mid Tier actions through a single online application process, allowing applicants to select appropriate actions from both schemes, with agreements varying in length from 3-5 years.

These actions include dry stone walls, more moorland activities, precision farming and no-till farming practices. The expectation is that these will be available to apply for in the summer for agreements starting in the autumn. Existing SFI agreements will be able to add new actions at their annual review point.

The full details of the combined offer still need to be worked through, along with the action requirements before the scheme can go live for applications.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said “the scheme is proving popular with farmers across England”, with “something on offer for every type of farm business”.

“For those who have not yet applied, I encourage you to take a look at how the scheme could work for your business so you can join the thousands of other farmers already getting paid,” the minister added.

The SFI offer launched in 2023. The majority of farmers can apply directly online. Those farming on commons should express their interest with the RPA who can support them to get ready to apply.

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