Skip to main content

The Sustainable Farming Incentive

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Sustainable Farming Incentive

Updated: 19 September

Providing you and your land are eligible, anyone can apply for a Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) Agreement in 2023, including those with 2022 agreements. 

We’re asking everyone who is interested in joining the scheme to register their interest first. We’ll then invite them to make a full application. We’re taking this approach to make sure everyone who wants to join the scheme has a smooth and supported experience. 

We started inviting people to register their interest in August and we are now inviting those who did to apply for an agreement.  

There is no upper limit on the number of agreements we’ll issue this year. 

If you haven’t yet expressed your interest in SFI, you still can by filling in this form. 

Farmers representing a diverse range of farm types across the country have already registered their interest.  

To provide a boost for those who apply early, farmers who have a live 2023 agreement before the end of the year will receive their first quarterly payment – worth 25% of the annual value of their agreement – by the end of this year.

Before you join SFI, there are some steps you’ll need to take to get ready. Alongside updates from the team and background on the scheme, you’ll find all the resources you need to prepare in this post. 

SFI: enhancing income, productivity and the environment

The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) offers a reliable income which supports food production and the environment. 

We've expanded and improved SFI based on your feedback. It’s now a much more flexible, broad and attractive offer with something for every kind of farm. 

By having an SFI agreement, you will get paid for actions that support your business, food production and the environment. 

Your agreement will start the month after you accept it.  

We’ve changed the way we check delivery to make it more flexible and pragmatic. You will be treated fairly and supported if things go wrong. We recently published a series of ‘how to’ guides for each SFI action. These guides are not mandatory, they are just intended to give you a bit more support.  

SFI is not competitive. Anyone who applies and is eligible will get an agreement. You can enter as much land as you choose: there is no minimum or maximum area.  

You can choose how many actions you do. Once you’re in SFI, you can add more land and actions to your agreement each year. 

You will be paid quickly. You can expect the first payment to land in your account in month 4 after your agreement starts. After this, payments will be made every made every 3 months. As mentioned above, we know that inflation and rising input costs impact farming businesses. So, to help with cash flow, farmers who have a live Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 (SFI) agreement before the end of the year, will receive an accelerated payment in the first month of their agreement. 

It’s possible to be in SFI and Countryside Stewardship at the same time if the actions are compatible and you are not being paid for the same action twice. 

Get ready 

1. Read the official scheme guidance.  

The SFI Handbook for the 2023 offer sets out the official guidance in a single PDF document

The official guidance is also presented in individual, accessible webpages on GOV.UK

2. Check that you’re eligible to apply.

3. Check that your land is eligible.  

4. Check the registered details on your digital maps are up to date. Requesting updates before you apply will make it easier when you fill in your application. It takes time for changes to be actioned so it’s best to request them as early as you can. 

5. Check your contact details are up to date and your permissions are correctly set for SFI in the Rural Payments service. 

Things to consider 

When to carry out actions 

If you’re planning to enter SFI, you can start some actions now and still be paid. For example, to take advantage of the autumn cover crop window. 

Hedgerow actions and digital maps 

If you’re thinking of applying for the SFI actions for hedgerows (HRW1, HRW2 or HRW3), you do not need to check your hedgerows on your digital maps before you apply. You’ll find guidance on this in the SFI Handbook (section 3.1). 

If you farm on common land  

Those who farm on common land are eligible for SFI through group agreements. These agreements are likely to take longer to arrange and will require some manual processing because of the multiple parties involved. We will work closely with commons associations to help them get ready to apply, including providing access to commons maps. We will give an additional payment to those who farm on commons, to recognise the extra work required to enter into the scheme. 

Those with SFI 2022 standards agreements 

Those with SFI 2022 standards agreements are encouraged to express their interest in the 2023 offer if they haven't already.

The RPA will make contact to discuss options for coming into the new scheme. If you have an existing SFI 22 standards agreement, you can include this land or additional land in your application. The RPA will work with you to arrange this once they receive your application.

If you’d like to contact the RPA now, you can:

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

We might be able to invite those with SFI 2022 standards agreements to apply before the end of their agreement. We will let them know.  

Learn more 

Talk to us 

If you have a question, post it in the comments section below. 

Remember, Basic Payment Scheme recipients can get free business advice from independent providers. To find a provider in your area, visit the Farming Resilience Fund page on GOV.UK.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Stephen Dennis posted on

    I am interested in joining the SFI programme

    • Replies to Stephen Dennis>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Stephen,

      That's great! You can register your interest using this link:

      We encourage everyone considering SFI to read the guidance, check their eligibility and make sure their details are up to date in the Rural Payments service before registering their interest.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  2. Comment by Jeremy White posted on

    As a farm consultant, agronomist and farmer I have many clients who would love to do more with their hedges, but the current standards are unusable for anyone with sheep netting, wire or electric fences which need to be kept clear of regrowth on an annual basis. Please can a new standard be offered which allows farmers to side cut their hedges, but leave the tops to grow on to bear the extra fruit which 2nd and 3rd year wood delivers. Also, the biennial cutting option restricting cutting dates to late winter is not useable for anyone with steeply sloping ground (such a friend of mine on Exmoor). Perhaps this comment could be passed to Jonathan Marsden for a response.

    • Replies to Jeremy White>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Jeremy,

      In most cases, the incremental annual cutting will meet this customer's needs. For incremental cutting, we do not dictate how big the increments have be, so smaller increments on the sides and larger on the tops is fine.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  3. Comment by Mark Lea posted on

    I have some land under my SBI on an FBT which ends very soon so I don’t want to (and cannot) enter it for SFI. How can I exclude it from the agreement level options eg SAM1, NUM1 and IPM1?
    If I allow the system to impose those options on all my parcels what will happen when I transfer them to someone else (via RLE1) in the future. The new owner may want to enter their own SFI.


    • Replies to Mark Lea>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for getting in touch. SAM1 isn't an agreement level action. NUM1 and IPM1 only apply to land parcels entered into an SFI agreement - they do not apply to land parcels not in an SFI agreement. So, if you do not want NUM1 and IPM1 to apply to land parcels, don't enter them into any SFI application.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  4. Comment by Ian Smith posted on


    I have a question regarding the area based options in SFI that can be rotated round my farm e.g herbal leys. As my fields are all different sizes if I enter an area into one of these options e.g 10 Ha do I have to put in exactly 10 Ha into this option each year or can I put 10 one year and 9.6 another. I have looked in the handbook but can't see that this is covered.

    Thanks Ian


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.