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Sustainable Farming Incentive – 2022

Posted by James Watchorn on 9th December 2021
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The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is the first of the three new environmental land management schemes and will be paying farmers to produce public goods such as water quality, biodiversity, animal health & welfare and climate change mitigation alongside food production.

The ELMs umbrella includes:

    • SFI- rollout 2022
    • Local Nature Recovery Scheme- phased rollout to begin from 2023 that will pay for actions that will achieve environmental priorities in a locally targeted way
    • Landscape Recovery Scheme- piloting to begin in 2022 and will support long-term, large-scale, land use change and habitat restoration projects


The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will be responsible for administering SFI.


  • Farmers who are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)
  • Not before 2024 those not already registered for BPS will be eligible
  • SFI will operate at a land parcel (field) level- farmers/landowners can choose how many fields to enter but it must be a whole field as that is the basis for payment
    • Where part of a field is not eligible, payment will be for the portion of the field that is covered by the agreement
  • Land must be in England and cross-border land parcels will not be eligible for SFI in early rollout
  • There is no minimum or maximum amount of land that can be entered into the scheme (to be eligible for BPS, a farmer must have at least 5 hectares of eligible land – but not all of this land would need to be entered into the SFI agreement)


  • Agreements will last for 3 years, with some flexibility for farmers to amend them every 12 months from their start date
  • During their 3-year agreements, farmers will only be able to reduce ambition or coverage in exceptional circumstances (for example, where someone unexpectedly loses management control of some of their land)
  • It is expected that the standards and payment rates signed up to in 2022 will remain stable for the full 3-year agreements, after the initial 3-year period, the standards and rates will be adjusted based on what is learned during early rollout

Timing of applications

  • SFI applications will open for a window of at least 10 weeks in 2022- precise dates to be released early 2022
  • The first SFI payments will be made before the end of the year
  • Most likely from 2024, applications can be made at any time of the year


  • Paid in quarterly instalments, beginning from three months after each agreement starts
  • Each instalment will represent one quarter of an annual payment

Capital payments

  • There will be no capital payments available under the SFI standards in 2022
  • Capital payments will be introduced into SFI later in the rollout
  • In 2022, farmers will still be able to apply under other Defra capital offers (including Countryside Stewardship), alongside a SFI agreement

Abigail Wyatt

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