Sustainable Farming Incentive brings significant costs

Tom Bradshaw

The government's Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) must recognise the significant costs farmers could face delivering public goods under the scheme.

The call comes as Defra announce further details of SFI, the first of its new environmental land management schemes. The scheme will be open to farmers who are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme and farm more than five hectares of land.

There will be three initial standards for farmers to select from:

  • Arable and horticultural soils – this offers between £22 and £40 per hectare and includes activities such as testing of soil organic matter.
  • Improved grassland soils – this offers between £28 and £58 per hectare for activity, including producing a soil management plan or herbal leys on at least 15% of land.
  • Moorland and rough grazing – this offers £148 fixed per agreement per year, plus an additional variable payment rate of £6.45 per hectare.

Some clarity at last

Commenting on the announcement, NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “While it is good to finally have some more clarity on the scheme offering, ultimately much more detail is needed for farm businesses to make informed decisions.”

An important moment

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first scheme that every farmer can access in Defra’s new agricultural policy, so this is an important moment in the agricultural transition.

Mr Bradshaw went on to explain, “It’s clear that Defra has taken on farmers’ feedback on the pilot scheme and we can see that meaningful changes have been made to the final offer, including much-needed flexibility for tenant farmers to participate and the introduction of a more flexible approach to inspections.”

Need to attract participation

“However, it is vital that the SFI recognises the significant costs farmers could incur in delivering public goods and fully recognises that in the payment rates, at a time when direct payments are phased out. We have concerns in this area and it is vital that these are addressed in order to attract the participation Defra envisages and that is required to deliver the environmental ambition of the scheme.”

Look out for much more on this story in the coming days.

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