Money for Old Rope?

6th December 2022

Applications for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) opened in June and will remain open year-round so that farmers can apply when it suits them. Interestingly, this will mean that individual farmers and landowners all have differing agreement start dates, unlike the old BPS scheme.


Based on DEFRA’s guidance, once an application has been submitted an agreement could be up and running within three months although there may be work to do in determining the eligibility of land cover and types before submission.


Once the RPA has made an offer, the applicant has 15 days to accept or reject it, with accepted offers usually starting on the first day of the following month.


Analysis of the scheme shows that the initial standards and actions are fairly simple. For example, take the arable and horticultural soils standard. Although the payment rates may not seem attractive at £22 & £40 per ha for introductory and intermediate levels, the actions do not appear to be that onerous.


Introductory level actions:

1. Complete a soil assessment and produce a soil management plan

2. Test soil organic matter (SOM) – ensure land parcels have been tested for SOM within the last 5 years

3. Add organic matter at least once during the three-year agreement

4. Green cover on at least 70% of land over winter


Intermediate level actions are as above except:

4. Green cover on at least 50% of land over winter and multi-species cover crops on an additional 20%


From a lay-person’s perspective, it would seem that these actions are achievable and indeed may have already been undertaken, or partially undertaken, by many farmers. With little added input, these actions should be realisable and perhaps, therefore, there could be ‘money for old rope.’


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