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Spotlight on the Sustainable Farming Incentive and the Future of Farming

Published: 04/08/2021

Spotlight on the Sustainable Farming Incentive
and the Future of Farming

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is a new government scheme that rewards environmental land management. 

The Sustainable Farming Incentive forms part of the new suite of schemes forms ELMS (Environmental Land Management Scheme) that will reward farmers for adopting more sustainable farming practices. From 2021, the area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England is being phased out over seven years. By 2028, farmers will no longer receive any BPS payment from the government. Instead, a selection of new payment systems, based on environmental outcomes and public goods, are being introduced.




Reduction percentage for the element within the band
Direct payment band2021202220232024
Up to £30,000
5%20%35%50%
£30,000 - £50,000
10%25%40%55%
£50,000 - £150,000
20%35%50%65%
£150,000 or more
25%40%55%70%








Farmers are being rewarded for adopting sustainable farming practices 

Alongside the opportunities presented by ELMS it has also been promised that there will be a more positive approach to inspections and scheme compliance, The secretary of state has said:

“The SFI will reflect a fundamental change in DEFRA’s approach to checking compliance and monitoring agreements, with the focus on outcomes and improvement, rather than penalising shortcomings.”

The first entry level scheme to be introduced in England is the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) which is due to be piloted by 2000 farmers over the next 6 months. This will be followed by an early roll out in 2022 comprising 2 standards: Soils standard comprised of: Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard, Improved Grassland Soils Standard and Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard. The second standard is the Animal Health and Welfare Review. More standards will be added as scheme progresses.

The SFI will pay farmers to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way, above the regulatory requirements. Actions will be grouped into ‘standards’ enabling farmers to identify actions best suited to their land and business. The aim is to make it straightforward for everyone to take part

Within each standard there are three levels for participants to choose from – introductory, intermediate, and advanced. Each level will be more challenging than the previous and deliver greater environmental benefits. Farmers can choose a different level for each standard – avoiding the need to pick a level of difficulty which applies across all standards. Where appropriate, more than one standard can be applied to the same area of land.

Careful navigation is required to select the right scheme for you

As always, careful navigation through all the available options is needed to make sure the selected schemes are the right fit for your farm. To discuss the merits of applying to the SFI next year or to start planning a new Countryside Stewardship application or extending an existing agri-environment agreement please contact The Woolley & Wallis Farm and Rural team.

In addition to SFI there are updates being made on an almost weekly basis sharing information on new schemes and grants that are becoming available. If there is a project you have in mind or a new piece of equipment that you are looking to invest in, please get in contact for an update.