SFI back to basics – your top 8 questions answered

Environment and climate
Claire Robinson

Claire Robinson

Senior Countryside Adviser

Field margin

The NFU’s Senior Countryside adviser Claire Robinson answers your most pressing questions on how the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) scheme will work.

1. Is there a limit on the number of agreements?

This is not a competitive scheme. As long as you and your land are eligible, you can apply for SFI. You will get an SFI agreement.

2. What if I'm already in an agri-environment scheme?

You will still be able to access the SFI if you're in an agri-environment scheme. Areas that are not in agreement, or don’t have options placed on them, can go in SFI. In some cases, it’s possible to layer SFI actions over existing option areas.

3. Payment rates – how do they work?

Every business is different, but there are payments available for actions that you may already be doing that are beneficial for the environment. For clover leys, you can get a payment of £102/ha, £36/100m for hedge management, or insecticide free crops at £45/ha. There’s support for nutrient planning or integrated pest management.

4. How much clover do you need in the sward in the SFI legume ley (NUM2)? 

Defra doesn't set out how much clover or legumes are required in the sward. If it sets a percentage figure, then it will have to check you are delivering that. That makes it more bureaucratic for the farmer and Defra. When checking, Defra will be looking for you to deliver the action’s aim of having legumes growing from spring to autumn.

5. What if I’ve already got a herbal ley or a pollen and nectar mix in the ground?

If you’ve already got appropriate delivery on the ground these can be paid for from your SFI agreement start date. The delivery does need to meet the scheme requirements.

6. When do I need to establish my SFI options? 

The SFI does not require you to have the actions established before you apply. You can do that in the first year of your agreement, allowing you to establish at the right time of the year.

7. Once I’m in an agreement, can I change my SFI agreement? 

Annually, you will be able to add actions or land to your agreement. You will not be able to reduce delivery. Where you have rotational options, you will be able to vary the amount delivered to accommodate different field sizes. You will be able to reduce by 50% the option area in the first year. 

8. My hedge maps are wrong. Do I need to update these before applying?

You do not need to check your digital maps for hedgerows before you apply. When applying, you need to tell RPA the length of hedgerow in each parcel. Once your agreement starts, you may be asked to submit an RLE1 form.

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