18 October 2023, UK: The first farmers to sign up for the new and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) have this week received their first payment, Defra has confirmed (18 October).
The early payments, worth 25% of the annual value of farmers’ agreements, have been made just a month after the start of applications.
Every farmer whose agreement started on 1 October 2023 has received the payment which will help to improve cashflow and make sure SFI works for their farm business.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive pays farmers in England to take actions that support food production, farm profitability and resilience, whilst protecting and enhancing the environment.
The SFI offer for 2023 has already received record interest from farmers around the country, including farmers who have had agreements under SFI 2022. There have been over 14,000 registrations of interest and almost 1,000 applications submitted offered since the scheme started accepting applications.
From the end of this week, the majority of farmers will no longer need to submit registrations of interest and will be able to apply directly online, simplifying the application process. Those farming on commons should continue to express their interest with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) who can support them to get ready to apply.
Secretary of State for Food and Farming Thérèse Coffey said:
I am delighted by the number of agreements that are already in place for the 2023 Sustainable Farming Incentive and that farmers are now being paid. I encourage all farmers to get involved and see what the scheme can offer your farm business.
We are engaging with farmers and taking onboard their feedback to continually improve the scheme, including delivering on our commitment to introduce early payments and taking steps to simplify the application process.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:
It’s been fantastic to see the enthusiasm with which farmers have embraced the latest SFI offer, and we are supporting them by delivering faster payments than ever before.
SFI has something on offer for every type of farmer, and we will be processing applications as quickly as possible to get more payments into pockets this year and help farmers improve their cash flow.
Paul Caldwell, Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency, said:
We understand the importance of cashflow for farmers and hope the measures we have taken will assist in making a difference at an important time.
We are continuing to work hard on getting more and more farmers involved in SFI.
The government will continue to make improvements to our Environmental Land Management schemes to ensure they work best for farmers, such as bringing forward early payments in a way which would not have been possible under the Common Agricultural Policy.
The 2023 offer has been expanded and made more flexible in response to farmer feedback with over 23 paid-for actions now on offer including improving hedgerows, nutrient management, farmland wildlife and low input grassland. Other improvements mean that farmers can choose what combination of actions are right for them – unlike previously where actions were grouped into standards.
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