Are you concerned about the reduction in BPS but unsure if the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) will benefit your farm? The scheme for England is now open and given how drastically different it is from the soon to be obsolete BPS regime it replaces, there is a lot to consider.
The SFI is designed to reward farmers for managing soils sustainably with the objective of improving water quality, biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions. Providing the scheme is managed properly, farm productivity and profitability are anticipated to improve.
Why should I apply?
If you have found previous scheme applications complicated then fear not! Defra have tried to make it quick and easy to access SFI funding and are providing a lot of information to support the application process. For example, this ten-minute video on how to apply has been produced https://youtu.be/_YYlM6hCVGs.
Unlike BPS, the SFI aims to be more inclusive for tenant farmers providing they’ve have management control of the land for at least three years. Full guidance can be found via this link Sustainable Farming Incentive: full guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
The SFI is flexible, you don’t have to enter the whole farm and you have the option to enter field parcels into different levels of the scheme. This is a good way to trial the scheme without over committing. You can add in more land or move up the levels as and when it suits you during the three-year agreement.
Currently, the intermediate level of the scheme achieves the highest payment level and only require modest changes to farming practices. The introductory level for the arable and grassland soil standards is easily achievable. To meet the criteria all that is needed is a soil management plan, a soil organic matter test, winter cover to protect your soils, as well as adding organic matter to your soil. This could be from straw incorporation, cover crops or spreading manure. Winter cover can be achieved by autumn sown crops, grass leys or a cover crop. These practices are well worth considering as none of them are especially difficult and are almost certainly beneficial to productivity and profitability. An advanced level is due to be available before 2025
To qualify for the Improved Grassland Intermediate level of the programme you are required to carry out the same commitments as the entry level plus establish herbal leys on 15% of the land entered into the scheme. Click on this link to read our previous blog on The wonderful ways of herbal leys. You may have implemented some of the criteria on your farm already, so in many instances you’ll be paid for doing something you already do.
Commitments for the Improved Grassland Standard
|Action 1: complete a soil assessment and produce a soil management plan
Action 2: test soil organic matter
Action 3: minimise bare ground by having no more than 5% of the total area of land entered into the standard left bare over winter
|Same as entry level plus:
Action 4: establish and maintain herbal leys on at least 15% of land in this level of the standard
How can Promar Consultants help you?
Our consultants have a thorough understanding of the SFI and are here to interpret DEFRA’s guidelines, so do reach out to us for any help or guidance. We can also assess your farm, and parcels of land for suitability and help you decide which level to select. Part of the criteria for the scheme includes soil testing and soil management plans which our consultants are qualified to produce for you.
We can help by assessing what impact implementing the different levels of the scheme will have on farm business performance.