News / Sustainable Farming Campaign

The first new environmental farming scheme goes live for some farmers

The new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) - part of replacing CAP payments - is now live. After years in development, we welcome this breakthrough and urge for faster and more ambitious schemes that have a bigger budget to tackle the climate, nature and health crises.

Hay bales at harvest time in the Cornish countryside. Credit: Helen Hotson / Shutterstock

Hay bales at harvest time in the Cornish countryside. Credit: Helen Hotson / Shutterstock

The new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) has now opened for applications in England for most farmers - those in receipt of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). This is a welcome step forward on new farm support (1).

Those who don't claim BPS, like farms under 5 hectares, will have to wait for future iterations of the scheme. Many documents are now available, to cover all aspects of the scheme, on the Defra website

Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming notes:

"It is a red letter day for English farming as the new support scheme goes live. We encourage all to apply if they can for this first, narrow, set of schemes. Climate mitigation, nature recovery, water protection, education and all the many other potential public benefits of farming should start to be supported, alongside food production.

Critically the new schemes that follow this must be available to all farmers, be far more ambitious in terms of impact and ratchetting up public goods benefits, have a bigger budget that is fit for the scale of need, and to reflect the complex nature of whole farm systems."

In 2022, the three standards are the: 

  • arable and horticultural soils standard – with payments of £22 and £40 per hectare depending on what level is chosen 
  • improved grassland soils standard – with payments of £28 and £58 per hectare depending on what level is chosen 
  • moorland standard – paying £10.30 per hectare plus an additional payment of £265 per agreement 

What are some of the key things farmers and growers need to know?

  • You can apply for the SFI as of the 30 June.
  • It will be a rolling application window meaning you can apply at anytime.
  • In the first few weeks, Defra and RPA are rolling out applications in 'batches'.
  • If you apply early and are in receipt of Countryside Stewardship or on commons, you will be asked to contact the RPA for support.
  • There are three standards to chose from - arable and horticulture soils, improved grassland soils, and moorland management.
  • You will only be able to access the entry and intermediate levels of these standards for now.
  • There is more automation of checks during the application process which may speed things up.

Defra notes on the new scheme

Defra have worked to design it to be accessible, and to reward sustainable practices which support food production and benefit the environment.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of three new environmental land management schemes being introduced under the Agricultural Transition Plan to 'ensure long-term food security by investing in the foundations of food production: healthy soil, water, and biodiverse ecosystems.'

The scheme will open with two soil standards recognising the importance of health soil for successful farming and the environment, and a Moorland standard where farmers will be paid to assess the condition of the Moorland as a basis for further action in future through existing and new schemes.

This is the initial rollout of the scheme – which will be expanded over the next three years as Direct Payments are reduced. The full set of standards will be in place by 2025.

A Video explaining the application process can be viewed.


1. Sustain has campaigned for a new approach to supporting farmers, based on public goods, since 2016

Published 30 Jun 2022

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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