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How the Sustainable Farming Incentive will develop

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: environmental land management schemes, Sustainable Farming Incentive
© Natural England/Peter Roworth

Last week we published details on how the new Sustainable Future Incentive scheme will work in 2022.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive in 2022 is very much a starting point. We are rolling out the scheme incrementally.

We want to test, learn and improve as we go, and expand the scheme to fit the available budget each year.

In this post, I'll give you an idea of how the scheme will expand over the next few years.

Standards in 2022

The environment and climate change elements of the Sustainable Farming Incentive will be structured around standards. Standards are collections of actions relevant to a particular asset or theme on the farm.

Farmers will be able to choose as many standards as they like. They will be able to add more standards into their Sustainable Farming Incentive agreement each year.

In 2022, 3 standards available will be available.

There will be 2 soils standards and the introductory level of the moorland and rough grazing standard. Livestock farmers will also be able to apply for an annual health and welfare review.

The document we published last week gives more detail.

Levels of ambition

In time, each standard will have 3 levels of ambition. The introductory levels of the standards will pay farmers to meet a good level of sustainable environmental practice alongside food production, beyond the regulatory baseline and existing good farming practice.

The intermediate and advanced levels will include more challenging actions and achieve higher levels of impact on the environment and climate change. These will result in a higher level of payment.

Farmers will be able to choose the level of ambition that works for them on each parcel of their land.

They can add higher levels of ambition each year if they wish. In 2022, the soils standards will have 2 levels of ambition: an introductory and intermediate level. We will, over the next year, add in an advanced level of ambition to the soils standards for those who want to go further and get paid more.

We’ll be working with farmers and other experts to develop the advanced level of ambition over the next few months. We’ll publish more about that in the new year.  We’ve published the moorland and rough grazing standard in draft, and we will continue to work with moorlands farmers and experts over the next few months to finalise it.

For the early rollout of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, the moorland and rough grazing standard will focus on assessing the condition of the moorlands. Those who want to go further can look to existing schemes which have a range of options for moorland farms.

From 2024, we’ll have an intermediate and advanced level of ambition for this standard too. We’ll work with farmers and other experts to develop them.

Adding in more standards

Over the next 3 years, we’ll also add more standards into the scheme, until the full set of standards is available by 2025. The table below sets out our indicative plan. The precise details may change.


2022 (confirmed)  2023 (indicative)  2024 (indicative)   2025 (indicative) 
  • arable and horticultural soils
  • improved grassland soils
  • moorland and rough grazing (introductory level)
  • annual health and welfare review 
  • Soils standards (advanced levels) 
  • nutrient management
  • integrated pest management 
  • hedgerows
  • agroforestry
  • low and no input grassland
  • moorland and rough grazing (all levels)
  • water body buffering
  • farmland biodiversity
  • organic
  • on-farm woodland
  • orchards and specialist horticulture
  • heritage
  • dry stone walls


As the scheme expands, farmers will be able to adopt more standards, produce more environmental benefits, and earn more money from the scheme.

Farmers will be able to update their Sustainable Farming Incentive agreements each year. This will allow them to adopt the new standards as they become available and increase their level of ambition and payment rate. It will also allow them to add more land into the scheme.

Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery

Over the next few years, we will also rollout the other 2 environmental land management schemes: Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery. 

Farmers will be able to choose which scheme or combination of schemes works best for them, and we’ll make it straightforward to do that.

We’ll publish more information on these schemes early next year. If you want to start doing more for the environment while we’re still rolling out the new schemes, we encourage to look at the Countryside Stewardship scheme. 

Countryside stewardship

Countryside Stewardship will remain open to new applications in 2022 and 2023, for agreements starting in 2023 and 2024. We’ve been improving and simplifying the scheme, and we’ve seen a 40% increase in applications for the scheme just in the last year.

Please subscribe to the Future Farming blog to get updates.

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  1. Comment by Anthony Barber-Lomax posted on

    I manage a rural estate including moorland in the Peak District.
    We have undertaken a Natural Capital Assessment, ecology, vegetation and peat depth surveys. I am curious to understand more about the details of ELMs above the moorland line. I think I could contribute usefully to the design of agreement participation requirements. Might there be an opportunity to do this?

  2. Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

    Hi Anthony,

    This sounds really interesting - if you're happy for me to, I'll pass on your details to my moorland and co-design colleagues and they'll get in touch with you.

    Best wishes,

  3. Comment by Andrew Long posted on

    I note from the above that there is no mention of the "arable and horticultural land" std or the "improved grassland" std. Both of which are included in the SFI pilot guidance at rate of £28-74 per ha and £27-97 per ha, respectively, and depending on which level you aim for. Will these be part of the roll out of the SFI from 2022 onwards or have they been dropped?

    • Replies to Andrew Long>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your question. We recently released information on the 3 standards being rolled out initially in 2022, as well as information on the annual health and welfare review. We plan to introduce more standards incrementally between 2023 and 2025, with the full range being available from 2025 onwards.

      The Arable and Horticultural Soils standard and the Improved Grassland Soils standard are two of the three standards that will be available. They were chosen for early rollout alongside the Moorland and Rough Grazing standard because they apply to most farmers in England and they will bring significant benefits, including for carbon and biodiversity. Also, there is little overlap between these standards and existing agri-environment schemes

      Further information on the plan for the roll out of standards is available at Sustainable Farming Incentive: how the scheme will work in 2022 - GOV.UK (

      Best wishes,
      The SFI Team

  4. Comment by J Dibley posted on

    hi. in what ways could an active local environment group "use" these initiatives to encourage farmers, developers and contractors, make appropriate changes on their land? Particularly those available or in proximity to public pathways, housing areas and roads etc.

    also could you point me in the right direction to any UK Gov , public sector or voluntary sector Grants to create, maintain and or improve hedgerows.

  5. Comment by The Team posted on

    Hello there,

    Thanks for visiting the blog. We’ve just published more information on Local Nature Recovery, 1 of the 3 new environmental land management schemes:

    This scheme will encourage collaboration and co-ordination between different land managers to deliver environmental goods, so this would be a good conversation starter and way for you to work with your farmers, developers and contractors.

    We are also looking at how Local Nature Recovery and Local Nature Recovery Strategies complement each other.

    Introduced in the Environment Act, Local Nature Recovery Strategies will be a powerful new tool that will help the public, private and voluntary sectors work more effectively together for nature’s recovery, and enable collective effort to be focussed where it will have most benefit.

    Collaboration between partner organisations, individuals, and each local responsible authority is really important. More information on Local Nature Recovery Strategies will follow - so do subscribe to the blog if you haven't already. We'll publish additional info here.

    There is a hedgerows standard of the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot. Here is a link:

    Best wishes,
    The Team.

  6. Comment by Ann Sanders posted on

    Having read all the plans for the new Local Nature Recovery incentive could the team please say if there will be anything on offer for holdings such as ours already abundant in mature trees and hedges? We already have over 130 metres of hedgerow per hectare of land.
    To an outsider it must appear that SFI is a completely new phenomenon developed by the RPA but some farmers have been achieving these standards for years and have little or no room for improvement.

    • Replies to Ann Sanders>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Ann,

      Thanks for your question. As the post mentions, we are looking into paying for managing trees. We are looking into what an SFI standard on hedgerows could pay for, but it will reward those that already have abundant hedgerows.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  7. Comment by Terry Lobb posted on

    I would very much like to see a reply from the team to Anne Sanders comments as we also have small fields with miles of hedges. Also we have in the last 10 years created more that a mile of new Cornish hedge row and ponds for wildlife, will we be rewarded for our hard expensive work ?


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