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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Sustainable Farming Incentive: standards, payment rates, and how to prepare

Dry stone walls, Derbyshire Dales
© Natural England/Neil Pike

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is 1 of our 3 new environmental land management schemes. 

Through the scheme, we want to support farmers to become more sustainable and to increase long-term food productivity. We also want to make sure that farmers have what they need to maintain the very highest levels of health and welfare for their animals and the environment.

We plan to launch the Sustainable Farming Incentive in June. Today we can share:

  • the final standards and payment rates
  • our approach to the applications process
  • how to prepare

In this post, I’ll provide an overview and share links to further information on GOV.UK.

I’ll also explain how farmers have directly shaped the scheme through the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot, tests and trials, engagement sessions, co-design activity and discussions.

Improving the standards and our payment rates

The standards and payment rates that will be available this year are:

  • Arable and horticultural soils standard
    • Introductory level paying £22 per hectare
    • Intermediate level paying £40 per hectare
  • Improved grassland soils standard
    • Introductory level paying £28 per hectare
    • Intermediate level paying £58 per hectare
  • Moorland standard
    • Introductory level only, paying £10.30 per hectare plus additional £265 per agreement  

There is an additional payment of £6.15 per hectare for common land with its own agreement.

The standards and payment rates guidance can be found on GOV.UK.  We've also included a roadmap so you can see when we’ll add in more standards and levels in the coming years.

We are also providing funding for a vet visit, through the Annual Health and Welfare Review. You’ll be able to apply for this later in the year.  

Improving the applications process

When the Sustainable Farming Incentive launches, we’ll update you here on the blog.  Subscribe to the blog for an alert when the scheme opens for applications.

Applications will be made via the Rural Payments service, as was the case for the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot. From the very start, we tested the service with users. Following feedback from farmers who took part in the pilot, we’ve made improvements.

Farmers told us that they wanted to be able to apply when it made sense for them and their businesses. As a result, there is no deadline; the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will process applications on a rolling basis.

Farmers also told us that they wanted the application process to be straightforward enough for them to complete it without having to pay someone to make sense of long documents and complicated forms. We’ve worked with content designers to make our wording simpler. 

We’ll provide more information in a blog post about what to expect, nearer the time. 


When the scheme launches, farmers who are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be eligible to apply for the Sustainable Farming Incentive. As we said in our previous post, we plan to expand eligibility in the coming years. 

We’ve designed the Sustainable Farming Incentive so that tenants on a short-term rolling tenancy can enter that land into the scheme, provided they expect to have management control of it for the duration of the agreement.

Land can be in both a Sustainable Farming Incentive agreement and Countryside Stewardship, but the actions must be compatible, and we can’t pay twice for a similar activity on the same area of land at the same time. When you apply for the Sustainable Farming Incentive, we’ll automatically remove any ineligible Countryside Stewardship agreement areas.

Full details on eligibility can be found on GOV.UK.

Get ready to apply

The scheme information is now available for you to read on GOV.UK.

You can only enter land into the Sustainable Farming Incentive standards that’s eligible for the standard you choose. This means it needs to have an eligible land cover and be an eligible type for the standard. 

You can choose which eligible land parcels to include, you don’t need to enter your full farm. 

You should check your land details on your digital maps in the Rural Payments service in and request any updates before you apply – this will make it easier when you do your application. 

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by John Calder posted on

    I offered to test the new application process for the RPA but here it is released and I have not heard from the RPA since making that offer. I do not think recruiting specialists in content is what was required to improve the process. How do you get DEFRA/RPA to really engage?

    • Replies to John Calder>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi John,

      Thank you for offering to test the application service, and I’m sorry to hear we didn’t take you up on this. In future there will be more opportunities to take part – to register your interest please email

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  2. Comment by John Calder posted on

    The 2022 SFI release is MUCH less comprehensive than the pilot. Is it safe to assume that no capital grants will be offered in support of the 2022 SFI release? If this is the case, all well and good. If not, the SFI grant application process is in need of radical reform to remove all the totally uncalledfor references to Countryside Stewardship legacy legalese. It is serving no useful purpose and makes the process inaccessible to those applicants who have been put off by all that stuff previously.

    • Replies to John Calder>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi John,

      The GOV.UK guidance that we published today confirmed that the standards will not include any capital items funding in 2022. You can apply for existing capital items funding offers on land parcels entered into an SFI standards agreement, such as Countryside Stewardship capital grants.

      In the future, SFI will include capital items funding to help you complete the actions in the standards. More details about this will be published on GOV.UK.

      We take your point about referring out to Countryside Stewardship, and will keep an eye on how often we do this.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  3. Comment by Tom Porch posted on

    Lets say farmer A harvests 10t p/ha of wheat at £200 a tonne on 50ha = 500t = £100,000. Why on earth would any sane farmer apply for any level when the max payment would be £2000 on those 50ha? Honestly, the team has taken on no feedback and the scheme is not fit for purpose. The cost of in admin processing 'farmer A's' claim would like to be more than the claim itself? Defra really needs to simplify and start again.

    • Replies to Tom Porch>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Tom,

      The Sustainable Farming Incentive is designed to work alongside food production. It doesn't require land to be taken out of production, so there is no reason why a farmer can't still achieve the yields you mention (as well as taking part in the schemes).

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

  4. Comment by Robin Horton posted on

    i did my pilot application and fed back my comments on enhancements and bug fixes to the rpa portal following my experience. I also offered to work with them to enhance and test the portal in readiness for the wider release of sfi this year as I am an experienced software developer and tester of 30 years+ experience. I have heard nothing following this feedback to them and no response on further involvement. I will be very disappointed if the portal still contains the issues it did in the pilot when it goes live this year ??

    • Replies to Robin Horton>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hello Robin,

      I spoke to the Rural Payments Agency about how your feedback was handled and used. They confirmed that did receive your notes, and that you should've received a message both confirming your contribution and thanking you for it. I'm sorry that you didn't receive it. The team explained that the experience people will have when applying for the full Sustainable Farming Incentive will be different from the pilot and that the new approach incorporates some of the points you raise. In short, your contribution will form part of the new build. The team asked me to convey their thanks again and they hope you'll be pleased when you view those pages.

      Best wishes,

  5. Comment by Robin Horton posted on

    Thats great thank you. I will watch the new live portal with interest. I think the issue is the difference between co design and taking peoples comments and then doing the thing you were doing in any case. Co design is working in collaboration and actively sharing ideas and working in a loop of feedback, change, test and improvement. where as what the rpa are engaged in is a process of designing something, taking feedback at arms length and then just doing their own thing with no sharing of changes, feedback and a process of active changed. This is a huge missed opportunity that has been pointed out by a great may of the pilot participants like myself. The rpa appear to be operating in a silo and this was a fantastic opportunity to improve their image and pr with farmers. There are many farmers like myself that come from an IT background and have many years of experience of designing systems like these. I have to say that the pilot portal was barely useable but was accepted by the pilot participants because it was that, a pilot. what we are talking about in june is opening up the portal to 100,000 farmers. it will be imperative to get it right first time else the damage will be done and the trust of the farming community lost. i think it is a huge shame and waste that the rpa have not shared their portal development with those of us who could help them. using us volunteers would have made their job easier not harder and would have been cheaper than using expensive testers and consultants but i suppose it is just tax payers money

  6. Comment by David Rounsevell posted on

    Thank you Robin for speaking on behalf of the many farmers who are not heard. Unfortunately, all too often public money is wasted by well meaning IT professionals who don't ask the people on the ground to do the testing.


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