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

How early roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive is going – an early update

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Payments to better understand moorland, Sustainable Farming Incentive

Its been almost 2 weeks since we opened the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) for applications, so we thought now would be a good time to share an update on how it’s going so far. 

A system that works well for everyone

We’ve put in place a new service to make it easier for farmers to apply and quicker for us to process applications. This means that farmers can get started with their SFI agreement much quicker than has previously been possible.

We’re rolling out the new service in a controlled way, so that we can make sure everyone gets the right level of service and support during these first few weeks. This includes carrying out some extra checks and monitoring in the background and continuing to refine and improve the service based on what we learn as more people use it.

So far, the service is working well. We’re pleased that farmers have already started their SFI journey with hundreds already using the service. We’ve already had some good feedback from those of you using the service, with some describing it as “incredibly easy”, but we’ll continue to make improvements as we go, as we always planned. 

Processing applications more quickly

The service allows us to automate the checks we need to do and process applications to offer agreements much more quickly than we’ve previously been able to do.

Within the SFI pilot, it took us an average of 6 months to process each application. We took the learning from that, and from existing schemes, to design a faster process for our new service. 

Our aim is to process an application for the Sustainable Farming Incentive within 2 months. We’re currently managing to get through applications a lot faster than that – we're currently turning around agreements well within 2 weeks. The time it takes to go through each application varies, and we expect there will be busy and quiet periods for applications depending on farming activities.

New agreements starting every month 

The start date for your agreement depends on when you submit your SFI application, how long it takes us to process it and how quickly you accept your agreement offer. 

Your agreement won't start until you accept it. Once it’s ready for you to review on the Rural Payments service, you'll have 15 working days to accept. 

If you accept your agreement by the end of the calendar month, it will start on the first day of the following calendar month. If you do not, it will start later, on the next available start date. 

Your SFI standards agreement will last for 3 years from its start date, which you’ll find on your agreement document. You’ll start getting paid quarterly, starting within the 4th month of your agreement starting.

You can learn more about this in the SFI scheme guidance on GOV.UK. 

If you have any questions about our approach, do leave them in the comments. The team will pick them up. 

Finally, don't forget to subscribe to the Future Farming blog for the latest updates.

How to apply 

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  1. Comment by Veronica Waller posted on

    The initial agreement is for 3 years for the land entered into the SFI standards this year. What happens when additional land is entered into SFI standards in future years and/or farmers decide to go up a level for land in an existing SFI agreement - eg move from introductory to intermediate? Do these new agreements last for 3 years from the date of acceptance of these offers and does this update the timescale for the land in the original agreement? It could be confusing if a farm has multiple SFI agreements on different land parcels and on different timescales.

    • Replies to Veronica Waller>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Veronica,

      Thanks for your question. With a Sustainable Farming Incentive agreement, you can upgrade annually to:
      - add additional standards
      - increase levels within standards already in your SFI standards agreement
      - add more land, including land coming out of a Countryside Stewardship agreement when it ends

      This means that each year there will be more you can choose to do and get increased payments as a result. We expect to publish further details about how this will work later this year.

      Hope this helps,
      The Team

  2. Comment by Ross Cherrington posted on

    No items for low intensity grass permanent pasture so very disappointed, always at the end and with poor payments

    • Replies to Ross Cherrington>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Ross,

      Thanks for visiting the blog. Earlier this year we published information about Sustainable Farming Incentive in 2022. This included information about additional standards we intend to introduce over the next few years. One of these is a ‘low and no input grassland standard’. This is due to be introduced in 2024.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  3. Comment by John Calder posted on

    It really is good to see application processing time radically reduced.

    Having said that, the pilot was more ambitious with 8 standards and it WAS after all a pilot. So, perhaps (over time) much better than 2 months would be achievable. That would be really good.

    Can we please expect to see published data each month on number of SFI applications raised, number of the number of SFI agreement starts and the average processing time, this month?

    • Replies to John Calder>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your questions. We're saying up to 2 months at this stage to manage expectations, but many applications will be processed quicker. Yes, we do plan to share more information on take up in due course.

      Best wishes
      The Team

  4. Comment by t everett posted on

    hi i ,applying for SFI, improved grassland standard,In a permanent pasture field of 3.76 ha,there is an arable cover crop in one corner of 0.53 ha,therefore3.23 ha available for intermediate standard for grass.The SFI page on my rural payments log in,however includes this arable area in my intermediate application for grassland,therefore trying to pay me a higher rate for the arable plot,even though i am not applying for arable.
    there is no mechanism for correcting an applications area in my case to the grass only area, that i can see,I have several fields with arable cover crops for birds in a corner,none are deducted even though correctly shown as arable in the BPS map section.please advise

    • Replies to t everett>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hello there,

      I've passed your comment onto the team who manage the service. In the meantime, the best thing to do is to contact the RPA directly.

      Email: - use ‘SFI’ in the subject header and include your Single Business Identifier (SBI)
      Phone 03000 200 301 - Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm, except bank holidays
      Post: PO Box 352, Workshop, S80 9FG

      Best wishes,

  5. Comment by David Ketley posted on

    There is a huge torrent of schemes coming out with so many variations that I have not found anyone who can makes sense of it all.


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