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UK: Expanded and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive offer for farmers published

Full details of the expanded and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) offer available to farmers from July have been published by the government today (Tuesday 21 May).

The expanded SFI offer will be open to new entrants for the first time and will initially comprise 102 actions, designed in collaboration with the agricultural sector, including over 20 new options to support more sustainable food production, – with payments for precision farming, agroforestry, a new and expanded offer for upland farmers and more actions for tenants on short-term contracts. Sticking to the plan for agriculture, the new actions will help farmers to reduce input costs and boost yields.

In addition, further new actions will support flood preparedness, helping businesses to become more resilient to the changing climate and challenging weather conditions.

The SFI works for all farmers, including tenant and upland farmers. With improved choice and payment rates, the current scheme is on track to be the most popular ever, with 23,000 applications received.

More than 50 simplified actions from Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier will be merged into SFI to streamline the application process for farmers. They include a number of actions where durations have been reduced from 5 to 3 years to align with the needs of tenant farmers. In addition to the expanded offer, the government has also launched a new digital tool known as 'Find funding for land or farms' to signpost customers toward the funding that is available to them.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: "I recognize that farmers have had to deal with difficult circumstances this year, which is why we have delivered on our commitment to provide further detail on the expanded SFI offer ahead of applications opening in July.

The new expanded SFI offer gives farmers more choices, makes things easier, and pays out more, so they can get on with the important job of producing high-quality food in a sustainable way.
Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that the application window for CS Higher Tier, which provides grants to help farmers protect, restore, or enhance the environment, will open in the winter, with agreements starting in January 2025. We have been improving the offer, making it simpler and reducing the burden of seeking advice and endorsement.

We are developing even more actions and features to be added to the expanded SFI offer later this year, including an educational access action announced in January's Agricultural Transition Plan update. These new actions will ensure farmers have greater choice and flexibility to produce food within SFI in a way that works best for them.

The announcement comes alongside the commitment made at the Oxford Farming Conference in January to increase payment rates by an average of 10% for SFI and CS agreements and introduce premium payments for actions that achieve the greatest environmental benefits. The doubling of management payments announced by the Prime Minister at the NFU Conference will be paid for the first time this Summer. It will be split across quarterly payments in the first year, putting an additional £1,000 in the farmers' bank accounts.

In March, we ensured SFI applicants will only be able to put 25% of their land into six SFI actions that take land out of direct production, and we are now applying the 25% rule to actions in the expanded offer, including in-field grass strips, unharvested cereal headland, bumble-bird mix and cultivated areas for arable plants. We will continue to consult with the sector and keep actions eligible for the cap under review.

Support for farmers
Today's SFI announcement follows on from a major package of support for farmers and growers unveiled at the Prime Minister's Farm to Fork Summit in Downing Street. This includes a new Blueprint for Growing the UK Fruit and Vegetable Sector, setting out how industry and government can work together to increase domestic production and drive investment into this valuable sector which is worth more than £4 billion to the UK economy.

We also published the first UK Food Security Index to ensure the government and sector is resilient to unexpected shocks to the market and extreme weather.

The government has committed to maintaining the £2.4 billion annual farming budget which will support farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably while protecting nature and helping to meet our net zero ambitions. Our new schemes offer something for every type of farm, and a crucial part of their development has been to listen to farmers' feedback.


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