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      Sustainable Farming Incentive - Our Findings so Far

      At the time of writing, Bidwells’ agriculture and environment team have been working with the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) 2023 offer for three months and have had mixed experience with the actions chosen, the compatibility with other schemes, and the application process.

      06 Mar 2024 3 minute read

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      That said, we are finding that the majority of farming clients are open to considering the SFI offer, and we have been working with them to propose a scheme that not only fits, but enhances their current farming system to achieve long-term environmental, physical and financial benefits.

      As of 17 November 2023, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) stated that 1,000 live agreements were in place and over 300 offers had been received. This does not seem a high uptake given the number of farmers across England and we are hearing of individuals not willing to engage with this offer despite the reducing Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments, pressures on commodity prices, and increased variable and overhead costs. To illustrate the scheme in practice, a worked example of a recent application is presented on the following page.

      An example of a scheme currently in practice

      This 175-hectare farm is predominantly arable Grades 2 and 3 land, with limerich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage. Cropping is mainly winter cereal crops or beans, with oilseed rape not included in the rotation since 2021. Spring crops are also in the rotation, however in recent years these have performed poorly due to very dry spring weather.

      Historically, the farm has been in various environmental schemes, but the client had decided against recent variations of Environmental or Countryside Stewardship Schemes due to the lack of flexibility, restrictions and length of the agreements. However, with a review of the SFI 2023 offer, and considering the reducing BPS payments, the client was open to considering a new scheme.

      Bidwells worked with the various parties involved and submitted an SFI 2023 application, which we hope will be easy to manage, provide regular quarterly payments to help the cashflow, and allow the client to undertake some  additional farming practices (SAM2, NUM3 and IPM3), which had been previously considered but not implemented.

      The annual income of the above is about £21,549 (excluding actions being considered for future years), equating to £130/ha. For comparison, the 2020 BPS payment equated to about £233/ha prior to the reductions, tapering and now delinking. This total income is before any management or establishment costs however, it is expected that costs will be limited due to the nature of the actions chosen.

      The application process for the above scheme was relatively smooth as the land parcels and land covers were up-to-date there was no live Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) and therefore no compatibility issues between SFI actions and CSS options, as have been experienced on other applications. The scheme allows the farmer to continue to produce food crops without substantially changing their farming system and at the same time, the farmer is rewarded for the resultant environmental benefits.


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