Since the initial launch of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) back in 2022 there have been many changes and delays to the rolling out of the scheme. In this weeks issue of Farmers Guardian, Katie Proctor, Rural Chartered Surveyor, talks us through the current state of play.
Although later than originally expected, on 30th August 2023 DEFRA invited farmers and landowners to register their interest to be considered for the controlled roll SFI application from 18th September 2023.
In June 2023, the government launched the formal guidance for the new and improved 2023 SFI, which was then updated further in August 2023. The 2023 SFI will offer 23 actions under the themes of soil health, moorland, hedgerows, integrated pest management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips and low input grassland. With further actions are promised to be added and to be made available over the coming years, what these will be and when they will be offered is still yet to be confirmed.
When speaking with Janet Hughes, Programme Director DEFRA’s Future Farming and Countryside Programme (FFCP) at North Sheep back in June regarding the changes and delays to funding, she expressed the aims of the RPA were to now “build a self-improving machine capable of changing and adapting” to the needs of farmers and that the key to SFI applications would lie in farmers and landowners “trying to pick actions that contribute to multiple outcomes.”
With many speculating about what may be on offer, the August update seems to have been well received, with many feeling actions are more achievable and viable, as well as the overall scheme being more flexible for their current business and enterprises.
Although, what is currently on offer under the scheme is broader and more appealing to a wider range of farming enterprises and the changes to the scheme since the initial launch have been positive the delays in the scheme roll out is creating a level of uncertainty for those wishing to take up the scheme as it is impacting on cash flow, proposed cropping, and grazing plans to name a few.
It is expected that there will be further developments to the scheme as it becomes established. There is also further clarification needed on the overall scheme with many farmers and landowners asking if there will be the possibility for businesses to transfer from an existing Countryside Stewardship or Environmental Stewardship agreement to a new SFI agreement which is delivering equivalent or higher environmental standards. It is anticipated that this information and the ability to do so will be welcomed by many.
If you would like to discuss the above or your rural business funding options our Grants & Subsidies Team, who will be happy to offer some guidance.