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More than 100 options to generate additional revenue are now available to producers who sign up to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). The government’s... New improved SFI offer is broader and more flexible

More than 100 options to generate additional revenue are now available to producers who sign up to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

The government’s latest offer – which increases the number of SFI options from 23 to 102 from July – was published on 21 May as the government made a flurry of announcements before calling the general election.

Improvements

The SFI pays farmers to take actions that can help improve farm productivity and make farm businesses and food production more resilient, while improving the natural environment and climate.

The 102 actions include 22 existing actions, two of which have been merged. On top of that, there are 23 new actions – including on precision farming, flood and water management, agroforestry and no-till – and 57 actions previously offered through Countryside Stewardship.

For the first time, farmers who didn’t receive Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments can now begin the process of applying for an SFI agreement. This means new entrants to farming can enter the scheme.

More flexible

Defra says it will start inviting applications from this month, making the expanded SFI available to most farmers at scale by the end of July. By then, guidance should be available to help applicants carry out the actions.

Farm leaders welcomed the news. NFU deputy president David Exwood said it was “encouraging that the new offer appears to be improved, broader and more flexible – changes the NFU has been asking for”.

Mr Exwood urged farmers to take a consider the expanded SFI offer. Applicants should first register their interest with the Rural Payments Agency, which will then invite an application when the offer opens.

He added: “It is important now that Defra and the RPA ensure that all these schemes have the resources needed to make delivery a success, with clear timelines for the application process.”

This would provide further clarity and allow farmers to put together a comprehensive SFI agreement. “It’s vital the next government looks at the agricultural budget to ensure the UK farming sector is resilient and thriving.”