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Announced at the Oxford Farming Conference this morning, the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes will be receiving a makeover in 2024 and will form one singular hybrid scheme. This valuable boost incorporates the current SFI and CS options into one agreement. 

Here's a quick rundown of the key changes delivering more actions and more money:

  • 50+ new land management actions to choose from, plus updates to many existing ones.
  • Increased payment rates from January 2024 for both new and existing agreements.
  • Premium payments for actions with high environmental impact – go big, get rewarded!
  • Specific areas under focus:
  • Grassland habitats are also simplified with an improved offer featuring higher rates and new capital items for creating and restoring these vital areas.
  • New areas covered include agroforestry, precision farming, and even no-till practices will now all attract funding.

Easing the process for you:

  • Many actions have been made simpler and more accessible with wider eligibility, aiming to reduce prescription and paperwork to focus on farming.
  • Shorter agreement options with many more 3-year commitments available giving you flexibility.

What do the increased payment rates for existing SFI actions look like?

  • SAM1 (Soil management): Up from £5.80/ha to £6/ha, with an additional payment bump from £95 to £97.
  • IMP1 (Pest management): Jumps from £989/year to a healthy £1,129/year.
  • IMP2 (Flower rich margins): Increases from £673/ha to £798/ha.
  • NUM1 (Nutrient management): Sees a rise from £589/year to £652/year.
  • AHL1 (Pollen and Nectar mix): Rises from £614/ha ro £739/ha. AHL2 (Winter Bird Food): moves from £732/ha to £853/ha.
  • IGL2 (Winter Bird Food on Grassland): increases from £474/ha to £515/ha

Importantly, we have seen a much-needed increase made to 2 of the Hedgerow actions making them more attractive; 

  • HRW1 (Access and Record Hedgerows): sees an increase from £3/100m (one side) to £5/100m (one side).
  • HRW2 (Management): rises from £10/100m (one side) to £13/100m (one side)

Significantly, many of the CS actions that have been pulled across into this new hybrid scheme have received a financial boost too. A handful of these have been listed below;  

  • SW5 (enhanced management of Maize) was £172/ha and is now £203/ha
  • AB16 (Bumblebird mix) was £637/ha and is now £747/ha
  • AB12 (Supplementary Winter Food for birds) was £669 and is now £732/tonne/2ha
  • AB3 (Beetle Banks) was £667/ha and is now £764/ha
  • AB4 (Skylark Plots) was £10.18/ha (min 2 plots) and is now £11/ha (min 2 plots)
  • AB5 (Nesting Lapwing Plots) was £587/ha and is now £765/ha
  • AB6 (Enhanced overwinter Stubble) was £522/ha and is now £589/ha
  • GS6, 7 and 8 (incorporated into managing priority habitat species rich grassland, was on average £282/ha and is now £646/h

The RPA also announced a list of new actions available under the new scheme, many of which have never been seen before:

  • £73/ha for no-till farming in crop establishment.
  • £203/ha for enhanced maize management: harvested by early autumn and then cover cropped during late autumn and through winter).
  • £27/ha for variable rate nutrient application, precision is rewarded.
  • £43/ha for camera-based herbicide spraying to target weeds more accurately.
  • £150/ha for robotic weed control.
  • £257/pond for simple pond management.
  • £4/100m for ditch management to help keep waterways flowing.
  • £1,182/ha for 3D watercourse buffers (with raised ridges covered in vegetation).
  • £483/ha for coastal saltmarsh management.
  • £92/ha for open public access rewarding farmers who share their space.
  • £77/100m for providing and managing  new public footpaths.
  • £158/100m for providing and managing new bridleways and cycle paths.
  • £158/100m for upgrading an existing footpath into a cycle path or bridleway.

There are also lots of new actions for woodland, trees, agroforestry and maintaining grassland and arable land for flood defence and reduction. You can find full details in the official policy paper here.

Whether you're an existing SFI or CS agreement holder or you've been waiting on the side-lines before entering SFI, this is a golden opportunity to access new revenue and make a positive impact on the environment with your farming practices. Whilst we do not know the exact date in which this new scheme will be live, we do know that it will be later in the year. Existing SFI agreements will also be able to incorporate new actions that are of interest on the 12-month anniversary of their existing agreement.

To discuss how this impacts you, your current agreement and your farm, please don’t hesitate to contact Lucy Turner or Henry Simpson in the Masons Rural team on 01507 350500. We’re here to help.