SFI – experiences of applying for the scheme

Mark Wycherley

Mark Wycherley

NFU Organics Forum vice chair

An ariel view of a dairy farm with some arable fields in the distance

NFU Organic Forum vice chair Mark Wycherley is a dairy and arable farmer from East Shropshire and is one of the first SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) agreement holders. He reflects on his experience of applying for the scheme.

Application process

The online application form itself is far simpler to fill in than the BPS agreement – you agree the standard and answer a few questions.

It tells you if you are eligible for the introductory level and then the intermediate pops up with the extra things that you need to do.

It’s just a case of ticking boxes for what you need to do.

The form then takes you to what fields are available and you just tick each parcel you want to put in, or not.

Mark was one of ten farmers, selected from across the country, to test the 2022 SFI application process, prior to the scheme opening to applications.

He decided to join the SFI initially to protect some of his income. His day to day farming was already achieving the SFI standards, without the need to make improvements.

There's a map on screen, and it highlights by colour what fields are available or not available and the reason why.

You can’t tick something twice. In effect it automatically rules out double funding with other schemes. It basically walks you through it.

Land cover status

A big thing that cropped up was that your profile of fields must show a status for what the land cover for each parcel is.

It might be ‘arable’ or ‘permanent grass’, for example. Two of my fields are arable fields, but because they’d been in grass for five years they went to permanent grass under the five-year rule, and I couldn’t put them into the arable SFI.


This meant I had to go through RLE1. I thought I’d test the system properly and do it through the normal helpline. At no point did I speak to the mapping department. It was all done through the call centre and it took two and a half weeks to change the status of the field.

And I was one of ten in this priority group.

I’m concerned now they've rolled SFI out it’s going to take longer to sort any land use statuses that are wrong.


The main thing to do is to understand what the standards require, then to go in and find out what each parcel of land cover is for your farm.

That’s because field eligibility talks about land cover and land type. Land type is what you put on your BPS. So, you might think what you’ve put on your BPS form is correct as your land cover. But it’s not. It’s whatever is on another part of the RPA system.


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