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https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/01/04/environmental-land-management-in-2024-details-of-actions-and-payments/

Environmental land management in 2024: details of actions and payments

Sheep grazing in field with trees and farmland in the distance
Credit: Jay

Today we published an update to the Agricultural Transition Plan on GOV.UK. It includes our progress, priorities and plans for the coming years.     

In it, you'll find our overall approach to agricultural reform: that food production can, and must, go hand in hand with the environment. Additionally, that by supporting productivity, innovation and ensuring our schemes work with food production, we will reach our ambitious environmental targets and maintain food production.  

We're pleased that farmers across the country continue to sign up to our schemes. To get to where we want to be, we want to support even more farmers to get involved and encourage those already taking action to go even further.

We will achieve this by making environmental schemes and regulation more attractive, fair and workable. We also need ambition, which we will support by encouraging and enabling more targeted and effective action. 

In 2024, we are taking a significant step forward to achieve that. We are: 

  • increasing payment rates by an average of 10% for Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements 
  • increasing the number of actions on offer in our environmental land management schemes with up to 50 new actions 
  • making schemes more flexible and easier to access, with a streamlined single application service for farmers to apply for SFI and CS Mid Tier  
  • paying a premium for high ambition actions or for delivering packages of actions that will achieve greater environmental benefits 
  • continuing to prioritise an ‘advise and prevent’ approach across schemes and regulation, which will make things fairer for all farmers participating in schemes. 

This, and other changes, will make it easier for our schemes to slot into farm businesses, providing more money for farmers deliver change and ensure we get the scale and ambition we need to- positively impact the environment.

There is something for every farm regardless of where it is and the land is owned or rented.  The Agricultural Transition Plan update  is designed to provide greater certainty. A full list of actions can be found in its technical annex.

In this post, I’ll share a summary of the update. In the coming weeks, we will publish posts on the offer for farmers by sector. 

The offer in 2024 

Update to scheme payment rates

We are updating scheme payment rates to reflect current market conditions, which for some actions like species rich grassland mean big increases.  

Scheme rates will increase by 10% on average. If you have a live SFI or CS agreement, you don't need to do anything to benefit, we will automatically apply any uplifts to existing agreements where applicable.  

50 new actions

In summer, we will launch up to 50 new actions, which will allow you to access scheme funding for things like precision farming and agroforestry for the first time. The new actions improve the offer for all farm types, but especially those on moorland and grassland.  

We listened to feedback and introduced more ‘maintenance’ actions, alongside improving existing actions. These actions pay farmers who are already protecting the environment. For example, through maintaining grasslands, wetlands and scrub.

We made these changes so that farmers will get paid more for existing actions to maintain habitats, with the price of maintaining species rich grassland rising from £182 to £646 per hectare. This better reflects the reality of delivering these habitats and creates an incentive for farmers to create more. 

Also, more actions will be available for shorter 3-year agreements, allowing greater flexibility. This will be of particular benefit to tenant farmers. 

Elsewhere, we will introduce precision farming actions which use technology to target farming activities and reduce the use of costly pesticides or fertilisers.  

Contracts for innovation

We will award up to 5, multi-million-pound contracts, with an initial value of up to £15 million, to promote crop innovation.

By offering payments which support agricultural technology, such as robotic mechanical weeding technology, in addition to launching more grants in 2024, we will help you to adopt new technology or practices so you can grow more, sell more and have more resilient businesses.

Single application service

Not only will there be more choice, but the way you access the offer will improve. From summer, there will be a streamlined single application service for you to apply for SFI and CS Mid Tier actions. It will replace the separate application windows and processes.

This simpler, clearer, and faster service will enable you to select from the range of actions available on your land and  combine compatible actions from SFI and CS on your land parcels more easily. 

We will remove duplication between CS Mid-Tier and SFI actions, wherever possible. SFI agreement holders who entered into an agreement in 2023 will be able to either upgrade their existing agreement or apply for, and enter into, a separate 2024 agreement. 

This change will make it easier for farmers to access our services but will have no reduction in ambition. It will allow us to combine the breadth of the CS offer with the simple and flexible administration of SFI. 

CS Higher Tier agreements are different on each farm, and are more complex requiring advice, support and in many cases formal consent. We will continue to operate a separate process for these agreements, but we will offer the agreements through a simpler, clearer and faster service.  

Actions that are currently only available in CS Higher Tier will also be made available through our other offers. This means that, where appropriate, more farmers will be able access those ambitious elements, along with the accompanying advice and support for those, without having to have an entire bespoke Higher Tier agreement where that is not appropriate. 

After 2025, we will start offering other schemes through this integrated service, including the England Woodland Creation Offer. 

Premium payments

We will introduce premium payment actions with the biggest environmental impact and also for combinations of actions that deliver benefits at scale. 

Premium payment rates will be introduced from 2024 for the 21 high priority actions listed below. 

Theme   Action   2024 payment rate with premium (per ha) 
Arable   Nesting plots for lapwing    £765  
Lowland heath   Create lowland heathland   £711  
Lowland Peat   Raise water levels in cropped or arable peat soils to near the land surface   £1,409  
Lowland Peat   Raise water levels in permanent grassland peat soils to near the land surface   £1,381  
Agroforestry  Maintain very low density in-field agroforestry on less sensitive land  £248  
Agroforestry  Maintain very low density in-field agroforestry on more sensitive land  £248 
Agroforestry  Maintain low density in-field agroforestry on less sensitive land  £385  
Agroforestry  Maintain low density in-field agroforestry on more sensitive land  £385 
Agroforestry  Maintain medium density in-field agroforestry   £595  
Agroforestry  Maintain high density in-field agroforestry   £849  
Grassland  Manage species-rich floodplain meadows   £1,070  
Moorland  Low grazing on moorland   £53
Moorland  Limited grazing on moorland  £66
Water  6 metre to 24 metre 3-dimensional (3D) waterbody buffer strip   £1,182  
Water  Supplement: enhanced floodplain storage   £366  
Water  Manage features on arable land  flood and drought resilience and water quality    £1,241  
Water  Manage grassland for flood  and drought resilience and water quality   £938   
Water  Connect river and floodplain habitats  £1,242  
Water  Manage riparian and water edge habitats    £1,186 
Water   Make room for a river to move   £1,489  
Species   Create scrub and open habitat mosaics   £588 

Regulation approach: advise and prevent

We are continuing to deliver a ‘advise and prevent’ approach across schemes and regulation, which will make things fairer for all farmers participating in schemes. Meaning the many farmers who want to do the right things will get the support you need if things go wrong.    

We will support farmers back into compliance with greater communication rather than immediate penalties and are firmly committed to safeguarding environmental standards and animal health through proportionate regulation and outcome-based incentives to drive change.  

Significant improvements have already been made but are continuing to go further. We are rebuilding the system with a tailored, risk-based approach to regulation that makes it easy to follow the rules. 

Plan for the future 

With improved choice and payment rates, now is the time to apply for SFI. For more information visit our dedicated SFI site. It sets out the full offer.

To help you manage the transition and plan, you can get free advice from an independent provider. 

In this post, I’ve just covered our environmental land management schemes. The guidance for every scheme and grant on offer can be found on the Funding for farmers, growers and land managers page on GOV.UK. 

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102 comments

  1. Comment by Anna posted on

    Please can you tell us if the uplift in payments will be applied to existing agreement holders (SFI / CSS)?

    Reply
    • Replies to Anna>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Anna,

      If you have a live SFI or CS agreement, you don't need to do anything to benefit. We will automatically apply any uplifts to existing agreements where applicable.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
      • Replies to The Team>

        Comment by Anna posted on

        That's great thank you! I see the current SFI application system hasn't been updated but I will carry on and submit now you've confirmed.

        Reply
  2. Comment by Jack wallbank posted on

    Will their be any uplift in payments for the old environmental stewardship schemes

    Reply
    • Replies to Jack wallbank>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Jack,

      In the ATP update it says that we have not updated prices for Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements under Environmental Stewardship (ES). This is because the prices work differently in those schemes, and our intention is to phase them out rather than continue to update them. We encourage everyone in ES scheme agreements to apply for SFI, CS or Landscape Recovery.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  3. Comment by Richard Park posted on

    Will there be any new options specifically for organic farming

    Reply
  4. Comment by Andrea posted on

    Will the native breeds supported be the ones on this list from 2014? https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-native-animal-breeds-at-risk-list

    Reply
  5. Comment by Andrea posted on

    When will you be able to give us further detail about the requirements for the agroforestry options? Thank you

    Reply
    • Replies to Andrea>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Andrea,

      We will publish further information later in 2024, ahead of applications opening. This will include more detail on agroforestry scheme rules and how and when to apply.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  6. Comment by Robert posted on

    I am a young farmer and I started farming after the reference period for the bps, I managed to get the funding for a sfi advisor but when we came to apply for it I couldn’t because I was not eligible. I have 90 beef stirks and 80 acres with entitlements, I could not claim on the bps either, is there any help coming for new entrants or is the money for only for established farmers

    Reply
    • Replies to Robert>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, the Farming Resilience Fund offer of free business advice is only available to those who receive BPS.

      As it relates to our environmental land management schemes and SFI in particular, we’re currently only allowing BPS eligible farmers to apply for an SFI agreement. This is because their details are already registered with the RPA. We will widen this and we'll an update on this when we do.

      One thing you can apply for now is an Annual Health and Welfare Review. You don't need to have an SFI agreement to apply for this. We'll fund a yearly vet visit and this can be with your regular vet. You'll see in the guidance that to be eligible to apply, you need 11 or more beef cattle and, in your case, you do: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/sfi-annual-health-and-welfare-review

      We're also reviewing the findings of our New Entrant Support Scheme pilots and will share more this year.

      Finally, the full offer for farmers, growers and land managers in England can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/funding-for-farmers

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  7. Comment by Bob posted on

    Why UP2 payments so low compared to very low input on SDAs. UP2 is more onerous and is paid less?

    Reply
    • Replies to Bob>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Bob,

      Apologies for our late response.

      We use an ‘income-forgone plus costs’ model to calculate payment rates. Where we have amended an existing action, we have also reviewed the payment rate using the latest cost and income data. This has resulted in an average increase of 10%. From 2025, we plan to regularly review scheme actions and prices, with a proportion of actions being reviewed each year. This will keep our offers, including prices, up to date and allow us to respond to farmer feedback and changing scientific evidence to maintain progress towards our outcomes.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  8. Comment by Chris H posted on

    We are currently awaiting sign off for a new CS Mid Tier scheme which includes options that could prevent us applying for some of the new options listed above. Can you clarify when more details will be published on these options and whether they will available through CS or SFI.
    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Chris H>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Chris,

      We will publish further information later in 2024, ahead of applications opening. This will include more detail on the actions and capital items (including eligibility, compatibility with other actions, and what farmers need to do), the scheme rules, and how and when to apply. We plan to offer new agreements, including agreements including SFI and CS Mid Tier actions, through rolling application windows in 2024, starting in the summer.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  9. Comment by James posted on

    I am awaiting acceptance from you of a new CS scheme starting 1/1/24. I am minded to reject it and apply through SFI including all grass margins, AB8 & AB9, GS4 etc. Do you think this wise and that I should accept the new agreement and put up with having 2 agreements since I want to apply under SFI as well.

    Reply
    • Replies to James>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi James,

      You have the choice of either option. When considering, it is worth noting that the MT agreement, when it starts, will be from the 1 Jan 2024 and will be for 5 years. A new 3-year SFI application may mean that there is a gap in payments from when your CS agreement would have started and the start date of any new SFI agreement, although those SFI payments would be quarterly and may better suit you. You would need to ensure that the SFI offered what you need to replace those options you have already applied for through the CS agreement. Those you have listed have an equal SFI action with an equal payment rate. If new actions are added as part of the combined offer later in the year, and these are appealing to you, then these can be added to your SFI agreement (if that is what you have decided to do).

      As we set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan update, we plan to offer most SFI and CS Mid Tier actions through a single application service in 2024, rather than having separate application windows and processes. We also plan to remove duplication between SFI and CS Mid Tier actions, wherever possible. The SFI management payment is also available for people applying for SFI and does not currently apply to CS. We will also publish more information on how the management payment will apply to the combined offer as part of the scheme information later this year.

      You can contact the RPA about your SFI application: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contact-the-rpa-about-sfi

      We hope this helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  10. Comment by Jonathan posted on

    Our tenant farmer applies for bps on some of our land and we apply for the rest. We now have a joint holding number on the land so all our land is shown on our RPA mapping. Can we apply for SFI on all our land or only on the land for which we applied for bps?

    Reply
    • Replies to Jonathan>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Jonathan,

      The team emailed you and RPA last week - hopefully they'll be able to help.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  11. Comment by Matthew Quirk posted on

    Interesting ideas; I am still awaiting a decision about my application which mixed CS mid-tier with SFI as part of coming out of Higher Level Environmental Stewardship - this means that I have lost a full year's worth of grants so far, because I could not map the grants on the website - the maps were wrong and decisions have been extremely slow. When will I get a decision?
    For the new guidance I have the following questions:
    1. In mixing CS mid tier and SFI,w hat about those who already have CS mid tier in 2023 (or, like me, are waiting for a decision) - will they be able to upgrade their five year agreement to benefit from the new 2024 guidance?
    2. if so, when?
    3. if not, then should they wait to do an application in 2024?
    4. and when will the application window open?
    5. if question 3 applies, then what happens to those of us who will have lost a year's worth of grants?
    6. Nor have I yet been paid for my ES extension for 2023 - though I expect that this may be moot given that it is being replaced - but then I lose a year's worth of grant.
    The ideas are great, - I remain, on the basis of my experience, which I have written about to the RPA , the ELM director and my MP, sceptical about the implementation which needs to be thought through in great detail.

    Reply
  12. Comment by Libby posted on

    When will you release the information about non bps claiming farmers being able to apply for SFI?

    Is this going to be before Summer 2024 when more information is released about mid tier and sfi going into one application?

    Reply
    • Replies to Libby>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Libby,

      We’re currently only allowing BPS eligible farmers to apply for an SFI agreement. This is because their details are already registered with the RPA. We will widen this and we'll provide an update on this when we do.

      One thing you can apply for now is an Annual Health and Welfare Review. You don't need to have an SFI agreement to apply for this. We'll fund a yearly vet visit and this can be with your regular vet: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/sfi-annual-health-and-welfare-review

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  13. Comment by Janet Whitman posted on

    What date do the new rates come into effect? Will these new rates apply to existing and/or new Farming in Protected Landscape grants where they are matched to the CS payment rate?

    Reply
    • Replies to Janet Whitman>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Janet,

      The new rates will come into effect from from 1 January 2024. You don't need to do anything to benefit, we will automatically apply any uplifts to existing agreements where applicable. The new rates will also apply to new Farming in Protected Landscapes agreements and apply any uplifts to options in existing live agreements from 1 January 2024.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  14. Comment by Helen Browning posted on

    Can you clarify tree density under the low, medium and high density options for agroforestry please? Delighted to see agroforestry included now.

    Reply
    • Replies to Helen Browning>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Helen,

      We will publish further information later in 2024, ahead of applications opening. This will include more detail on agroforestry scheme rules including density, and how and when to apply.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  15. Comment by Mark posted on

    Hello, when will further details be released on the 'Premium Payments'?

    I currently have a CS Agreement, with the SW11 (Riparian Management) Option, but would like to know if I can transfer the SW11 Option to either the '6 metre to 24 metre 3-dimensional (3D) waterbody buffer strip' or the 'Manage riparian and water edge habitats' - can I do this and if so, how?

    Reply
  16. Comment by Rachel Garlick posted on

    How do I move or stop my ELS/HLS scheme, so I can apply to SFI/CS without any financial penalty?

    Reply
    • Replies to Rachel Garlick>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Rachel,

      We want all farmers in existing agreements to continue to take part in our new Environmental Land Management schemes and will make it as easy as possible for them to either enter into our new schemes at the right time, or add new offers to complement their existing agreement (where this is not resulting in double payments for the same action). 

      We are looking at how we can provide flexibility for ES agreement holders to leave an agreement early, without recovery, and apply for another land management scheme where a new agreement offers equivalent or greater environmental value than the HLS actions or options of their existing ES agreement. 

      We hope this helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  17. Comment by T Williams posted on

    I see from the OFC that there is a payment for direct drilling.

    1. is this limited to the HA of the farm or can the whole years drilled HA area be used?

    We have moved away from monocropping so would drill some fields twice. For arguments sake, a 10 HA field might actually be drilled twice - totalling 20HA.. over the 12 months. Can we claim the 20HA or just the 10 HA.

    2. Is there also a payment for those which use GPS ... as we save spray / chem and reduce fuel by doing so?

    Reply
    • Replies to T Williams>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi T Williams,

      The payment is for no till and is £73 per ha it isn't an action for direct drilling. It's about adopting no till techniques to establish crops to limit soil disturbance.

      Like all other SFI options they are paid per ha so if you want to do no till on 10ha, you would get paid for 10ha, it doesn't matter how many times you drill it. Further details here about the actions and payments for no till can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agricultural-transition-plan-2021-to-2024/technical-annex-the-combined-environmental-land-management-offer#arable-land-grassland-and-permanent-crops

      We do have existing capital items that include direct drills and the use of robotic and automated equipment, and systems to aid crop and livestock production here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/farming-investment-fund#farming-equipment-and-technology-fund-fetf-2023

      Hope that helps,
      The team

      Reply
      • Replies to The Team>

        Comment by BEN GRIFFITHS posted on

        Could you clarify this comment please:
        "The payment is for no till and is £73 per ha it isn't an action for direct drilling. It's about adopting no till techniques to establish crops to limit soil disturbance."
        Presumably direct drilling is eligible for no till payments.
        It would be helpful if there is some confirmation of what you class as 'no till'
        Thanks

        Reply
        • Replies to BEN GRIFFITHS>

          Comment by The Team posted on

          Hi Ben,

          We define no-till as not using cultivation machinery when you prepare the land for crops.

          When we publish further detail on the no-till offer in the future there will be an explanation of the types of methods that could be used to achieve this, for example direct drilling, and supporting guidance to help farmers.

          We will publish this additional information later this year, before these changes are introduced in the summer. A clarification – the payment is for no till and is £73/ha. It is an action for direct drilling. It isn’t an action for min-till.

          Best wishes,
          The Team

          Reply
  18. Comment by Denise Seely posted on

    The ATP implies that CSHT will continue. So presumably CSHT rates will increase?
    'By the end of 2025 to 2026 we will take forward twice the number of Higher Tier type agreements per year than we do now. To enable more people to access CS Higher Tier agreements, in 2024 we will:
    build on the improvements we have made previously to evolve our offer further
    make it easier and more flexible to apply, including moving to online applications and a rolling application window
    review how advice is provided and build in greater automation of the administration to free up capacity of expert advisors
    use external advice where this is available to support specific habitats and targets
    ensure the messaging around applying is clearer so we signpost farmers and land managers into the most appropriate offer'

    Could the authors of these docs be succinct please?

    Reply
    • Replies to Denise Seely>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Denise,

      CS Higher Tier agreements are different on each farm, and are more complex requiring advice, support and in many cases formal consent so we will continue to operate a separate process for these agreements, but we will offer the agreements through a simpler, clearer and faster service.

      Higher Tier application window will not open in February as has previously happened, we will publish more details on how and when farmers and land managers will be able to apply later in 2024, ahead of applications opening.

      We have not updated prices for Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements. This is because these agreements are made on a whole farm basis and payments work differently in those schemes.

      Best Wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
      • Replies to The Team>

        Comment by Lana posted on

        So will it be possible to have Hi tier, mid-tier and SFI options mixed into one application? At the moment you can combine Hi-Tier and Mid-tier options.
        How does woodland fit into all this? Could you have a mixed agri/woodland/SFI ?

        Have you decided the scoring threshold for Hi-tier yet please?

        Reply
        • Replies to Lana>

          Comment by The Team posted on

          Hi Lana,

          CS Higher Tier agreements are different on each farm, and are more complex requiring advice, support and in many cases formal consent. We will continue to operate a separate process for these agreements, but we will offer the agreements through a simpler, clearer and faster service. 

          We will make more actions currently only available in CS Higher Tier available through our other offers. This will mean that, where appropriate, more farmers can access those more ambitious elements with the necessary advice and support for those actions. 

          After 2025 we will start offering other schemes through our integrated service as well, including the England Woodland Creation Offer. 

          Hope that helps,
          The Team

          Reply
  19. Comment by rob yorke posted on

    bravo to the team - a learning adaptive, learning process which is paying off!

    rob yorke

    Reply
    • Replies to rob yorke>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Thanks very much for your comment, Rob!

      Reply
  20. Comment by Steve Proud posted on

    Will the HLS early exit scheme be reopened in 2024 to allow HLS holders to apply for CS to start in 2025?

    Reply
    • Replies to Steve Proud>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Steve,

      We want all farmers in existing agreements to continue to take part in our new Environmental Land Management schemes and will make it as easy as possible for them to either enter into our new schemes at the right time, or add new offers to complement their existing agreement (where this is not resulting in double payments for the same action).

      We are looking at how we can provide flexibility for ES agreement holders to leave an agreement early, without recovery, and apply for another land management scheme where a new agreement offers equivalent or greater environmental value than the HLS actions or options of their existing ES agreement.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  21. Comment by Zach posted on

    If my CSHT agreement started in January 2022, with the payment increases for maintenance species rich grassland does this mean the GS6 payments in my agreement would increase to £646/ha?

    Reply
    • Replies to Zach>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Zach,

      Yes it does mean your GS6 payment will increase. The updated rates apply to existing SFI and CS agreement holders from the start of their current agreement year. This will be the first day of the month the agreement started for SFI and 1 January 2024 for CS. You don't need to do anything to benefit, we will automatically apply any uplifts to existing agreements.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  22. Comment by Mark posted on

    Can you please explain why the AB9 Wild bird seed mix option has been increased whilst the equivalent organic OP2 Wild bird seed mix option remains unchanged from 2022 ? Especially as the organic seed needed is more expensive.

    Also will there be any increase in organic conversion OR3 Payment or maintenance 0T3 payment?

    Reply
    • Replies to Mark>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Mark,

      The rates have been updated using the latest cost and income data. The changes in payment rates therefore depends on what has happened to the costs and income foregone of activities required for each individual land management action. These are the final payment rates for 2024, but we do want to go into 2025 having reviewed all the actions we pay for to make sure they are appropriately flexible and workable for all settings. This will include a continued effort to keep our payment rates up to date and calculated in the most effective way.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  23. Comment by Caroline Jane Corsie posted on

    What scheme/s can people apply for between now (Jan ) and summer 2024 ?

    Reply
  24. Comment by Eric Michael Pinard posted on

    Hello.
    I had great problems trying to enter the scheme last year as the software had so many errors I was advised by the RPA to send in a list of corrections for them to add. I duly submitted the online form but the summary only showed 2 fields out of 25 were recorded. I have tried to withdraw by email but not had a reply yet. The software gave field errors before I started as it would not recognise MT03 and I had to change this on my land use data to a crop so I chose cucumbers which is somehow fitting. Is it sorted yet as there is no point in tempting offers if the back office is gibberish.

    Reply
    • Replies to Eric Michael Pinard>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. We're sorry it wasn't smooth. We've taken your feedback on board. Most people tell us that they are finding the process reasonably straightforward but we know that isn’t the case for everyone. We suggest you call the RPA again to see if they can help.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contact-the-rpa-about-sfi

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  25. Comment by Ed posted on

    Please can you provide a link to the guidance on the requirements for the premium payments and are these available for claims made now?

    Reply
  26. Comment by Simon Ward posted on

    How do the lowland peat options manage:
    1. The need to drain down land for short periods to harvest and plant paludiculture crops? For sphagnum moss this may only be once every three years.
    2. How can water levels be maintained on fenland where height invariably differs by more than 1m across a field making an exact water level different to measure?
    3. Field wetting will often cause structural damage to neighbouring farms sometimes miles away. Will Defra underwrite this risk?
    4. How will water depth be measured?
    5. How are you accounting for the almost inevitable methane release? If an annual cost is applied to the release the NPV is very high.
    6. Have you considered impact on import substitution?
    7. Wetting will increase urban flood risk in some areas. Has this been taken into account?
    8. What role will the various drainage boards have?
    9. As will be obvious from the Great Fen Project achievement of water targets can not always be achieved despite best endeavours and in some cases considerable up front investment. How will you mange this risk?
    10 Do you have a target area to achieve?
    11. Can I assume that this lowland option applies only to fenland fed by rain and ground sources and not acidic bog fed entirely by rainfall?

    Reply
    • Replies to Simon Ward>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Simon,

      Thanks for getting in touch. New lowland peat actions have been added to provide more flexibility (recognising different peat soil types and depths) and a more accessible offer (31-50cm water table depths are more achievable without bigger changes to farm systems) thereby acting as a pathway towards wetting to 10-30cm whilst still delivering lower emissions. 

      We will publish further information later in 2024, ahead of applications opening, here is the information available now about the actions and payment rates for lowland peat: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/agricultural-transition-plan-2021-to-2024/technical-annex-the-combined-environmental-land-management-offer#lowland-peat

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
      • Replies to The Team>

        Comment by Simon Ward posted on

        Thankyou very much for your comment. The real issue is consideration of the broader issues listed and not the concern for the individual farmer applicant other than implication of factors outside of the farmers control (which may only be known post application). I think most farmers would consider the Great Fen Project a disappointment because of action largely outside the operators control.
        If you are seeking support for the payments it is important to maximise the ability to produce which means the ability to lower the water table for the few options. On a bog soil sphagnum moss is planted and harvested on a three year cycle so a lowering of table for two periods in three years would seem reasonable. It is possible to harvest from the bank but this means that the ability to compete would be difficult.

        Reply
  27. Comment by Ed posted on

    Where can I find details on the prescriptions? This just shows the payments, not the requirements. Are these available for applications made now?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Ed>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Ed,

      We will publish further information later in 2024, ahead of applications opening. This will include more detail on the actions and capital items (including eligibility, compatibility with other actions, and what farmers need to do), the scheme rules and how and when to apply.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  28. Comment by John Nicoll posted on

    There are references in the press to grants for maintaining dry stone walls, but I can't find any details. Can you point me to them? Thanks.

    Reply
  29. Comment by JONATHAN CHAPMAN posted on

    In January 2023, alongside reviewing the revenue payment rates, you also reviewed and increased the capital payment rates for countryside stewardship options e.g. FG2, RP15 etc. Inflation rate for agricultural materials used for fencing, concrete etc. has kept increasing in the 12 months since and the payments are now less than previously set.

    Is this currently being reviewed and announcement to be expected or can we not expect any improvement in rates?

    Reply
    • Replies to JONATHAN CHAPMAN>

      Comment by JONATHAN CHAPMAN posted on

      I asked this before but it appears to have been missed.

      In January 2023, alongside reviewing the revenue payment rates, you also reviewed and increased the capital payment rates for countryside stewardship options e.g. FG2, RP15 etc. Inflation rate for agricultural materials used for fencing, concrete etc. has kept increasing in the 12 months since and the payments are now less than previously set.

      Is this currently being reviewed and announcement to be expected or can we not expect any improvement in rates?

      Reply
  30. Comment by Andrew Pick posted on

    I understand that there will be a payment of £73/ha for direct drilling of crops. Will it be possible to claim that payment every time I direct drill a crop. So: if I direct drill a cover crop, then direct drill a crop of spring barley will I receive £73/ha twice. Because there seems little environmental gain to direct drill the cover crop then in the spring plough that out then plant a crop of spring barley....?
    Also: can you advise: is this payment applied retrospectively or in advance. So: do I complete my application for fields that I am"planning " to direct drill of for fields that I have "already direct drilled".
    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
  31. Comment by Jack Walpole posted on

    My new SFI agreement was supposed to start on 1st January. We worked hard to put this together and it is a big comitment for our farm. We met all the deadlines set for application, but now you have made an abitary decision that we cannot start our agreement until 1st March. This means our SFI and CS agreements will now end on different dates, at a cost of many thousands of pounds in missed funding now and as the agreements end. Why do you not honour the deadline dates given in the application guidance?

    Reply
    • Replies to Jack Walpole>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We've forwarded your comment to the RPA and shared it with the team working on SFI too.

      The RPA has a dedicated contact page if you want to discuss your application with them.
      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contact-the-rpa-about-sfi

      Start dates for SFI agreements can be affected by a range of factors, particularly if you have an existing SFI 22 agreement, but in most instances they start on the 1st of the following month after the offer is accepted. The RPA can provide you with more information on why they were not able to get you agreement to start on 1 January.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  32. Comment by Nathan White posted on

    £1,242/ha for connecting river and floodplain habitats

    Is there anymore detail on how this will work, who will be eligible etc, I presume other relevant bodies/parties will need involvement in this scheme?

    Reply
    • Replies to Nathan White>

      Comment by The posted on

      Hi Nathan,

      The waterbody actions span a range of complexities with something to offer all levels of ambition. Comprehensive guidance on how to complete each action will be available for all applicants to see before they apply. We will be facilitating ways to help early adopters share their experiences to help others.  We will introduce as many as possible of these in 2024. We will confirm details of these timescales as part of the full scheme details in 2024. 

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  33. Comment by Byron Davies posted on

    We receive many requests & queries regarding swapping and/or adding options within "live" CS agreements. Does the "more flexible " approach allow this to happen? If the answer is "yes", how do agreement holders go about requesting option changes to their CS agreements....?

    Reply
    • Replies to Byron Davies>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Bryon,

      Yes it will. We plan to introduce an annual opportunity to update agreements including actions currently in CS Mid Tier, as part of the combined offer, from 2024. We plan to introduce more frequent update opportunities in CS Higher Tier agreements in future too.

      We will publish further information later in 2024, ahead of applications opening. This will include more detail on the actions and capital items (including eligibility, compatibility with other actions, and what farmers need to do), the scheme rules, and how and when to apply.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  34. Comment by Stewart posted on

    Will the earth bank maintenance payment be compatible with the HRW 1,2,3 actions, Devon and Cornwall banks have both elements within their structure.

    Reply
    • Replies to Stewart>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Stewart,

      Yes you can claim hedgerow actions [HRW1, HRW2, HRW3] alongside boundary actions as long as you can meet the aims of both actions. For example if you have a hedge on top of an earth bank you can get paid to manage the boundary, and the payments for managing your hedgerow.

      Hope this helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  35. Comment by Richard Cromie posted on

    Ref no insecticide payment per ha. Is this for a crop or a 12 month period from the start of the agreement?
    ie. If we enter into SFI in February, establish a spring oat crop with no insecticide, but want to drill winter wheat in the autumn, but will probably need an insecticide for aphids in Oct, does this comply?
    Or the fact that the field will have no insecticide from Sept. to Sept. be satisfactory even though part of the period was prior to the agreement start date.

    Ref direct-drilling, is there a list of direct drills that comply or is it just one pass?
    Are stubble rakes allowed pre drilling?

    Reply
  36. Comment by Lana Huntley posted on

    Will the new combined MTCS/SFI applications be scored? Is there a limit on how many agreements there will be across the country? Will these be 3 years only?
    It was specified last year that there would be no competition with SFI

    Reply
    • Replies to Lana Huntley>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Lana,

      We are streamlining the way we offer our paid actions and schemes. We currently have separate SFI and CS Mid and Higher Tier schemes offering different types of actions and agreements. There is no limit to the number of SFI agreements and no competition.

      We plan to offer most SFI and CS Mid Tier actions through a single application service in 2024, rather than having separate application windows and processes making more actions available with a shorter 3-year agreement duration. 

      We also plan to remove duplication between SFI and CS Mid Tier actions, wherever possible.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

      Reply
  37. Comment by John w. Baxter posted on

    I found that I was rejected from applying for soil sampling,hedgerow inventory taking and maintenance etc. on land in CS. AB16 etc. in SFI application on that land ……I was surprised that I had no base to move from , but did understand that AB16 said I could do nothing on the AB 16 land.

    Reply
  38. Comment by James burton posted on

    On both gov and forestry commission pages it says ewco is compatible with bps payments on that land . Can you confirm this please ?

    Reply
  39. Comment by Robbie Mack posted on

    Hiya,
    I work with landowners with a variety of holding sizes. Until now, smaller landowners couldn't apply for SFI, as it was only open to recipients of BPS. With the changes planned this summer, will smaller producers be able to receive SFI? Many of them are already doing positive things on their land, or want to increase what they do if they can cover the costs. Will they also be able to get CS capital grants, e.g. for pond creation?
    Thanks,
    Robbie

    Reply
    • Replies to Robbie Mack>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Robbie,

      Yes, as mentioned from this summer, we are opening up the scheme non-BPS receiving farmers.

      You can enter as much land as you like in your SFI agreement: there is no minimum or maximum area. You can also choose how many actions you do. Once you're in SFI, you can add more land and actions to your agreement each year.

      Defra just published this guidance on Capital Grants in 2024: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/capital-grants-2024/applicants-guide-capital-grants-2024--2 which you might find helpful.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  40. Comment by Ben Griffiths posted on

    Hello,
    As you are combining the Mid tier and SFI application process, will the agreements also be combined?
    Eg. if you are applying for AB14 this summer will it be offered as part of a Mid Tier agreement starting 1/1/25, or will it be part of an SFI agreement potentially starting the following month?
    Likewise, will the payment be made on Mid Tier terms from 1st Dec or the SFI quarterly payments?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Ben Griffiths>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hello Ben,

      We will publish further information on the actions later this year, before these changes are introduced in the summer.

      This will include more detail on the actions and capital items (including eligibility, compatibility with other actions, and what farmers need to do), the scheme rules, and how and when to apply.

      Many farmers will want to manage their farms using a combination of CS Mid Tier and SFI actions. To help them do this, we plan to offer most of these actions through a single application service in 2024, rather than having separate application windows and processes. We also plan to remove duplication between SFI and CS Mid Tier actions, wherever possible.

      If you already have an SFI agreement, then you can add to your agreement at your annual review point, and you can have additional agreements if you wish, outside of that cycle. We plan to introduce an annual opportunity to update agreements including actions currently in CS Mid Tier, as part of a combined offer, from 2024.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  41. Comment by Caroline Jane Corsie posted on

    Will there be the need for NE (RPA?) endorsement for any options ; I am thinking of e.g. eligibility for species rich grass payment ; or e.g. not being on the habitat inventory

    Reply
  42. Comment by Julian Thompson posted on

    If land is already registered under ELMS / SFI, can you still sell BNG Credits, Carbon Credits (Sequestration) and Flood Mitigation services privately to markets?

    Reply
    • Replies to Julian Thompson>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Julian,

      You may be able to sell biodiversity units and nutrient credits and receive funding from Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and Landscape Recovery (LR).

      You cannot sell an enhancement funded by an agri-environment scheme as a biodiversity unit or nutrient credit. However, you can use the same land to create further habitat enhancements on top of an existing agri-environment agreement.

      To do this, you need to:
      - take into account what the agri-environment agreement will achieve when you calculate your baseline
      - only sell biodiversity units or nutrient credits that are a result of new works and not those you have already agreed to sell through delivering SFI standards or as part of a LR agreement

      You can receive SFI, CS, ES and LR payments on the same landholding as BNG and nutrient mitigation if:
      - you can show they are on different parcels of land
      - they are on the same parcel of land but are not for creating, enhancing or maintaining habitat for BNG or nutrient mitigation (for example, new public access, maintaining heritage features and building walls)

      Here's a link to the guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/combining-environmental-payments-biodiversity-net-gain-bng-and-nutrient-mitigation

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
      • Replies to The Team>

        Comment by Julian Thompson posted on

        Thank you.

        To clarify - excluding biodiversity units and nutrient credits.

        Can carbon credits (and other novel instruments), developed as innovation through Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund be sold from land covered by an existing SFI agreement?

        (as above, this question is excluding biodiversity units and nutrient credits)

        Reply
        • Replies to Julian Thompson>

          Comment by The Team posted on

          Hi Julian,

          NEIRF works alongside the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) in that it allows for the same area of land to be entered into an agreement and a private sector scheme arrangement, such as carbon trading or payments for natural flood management.

          The Environment Agency administers the scheme on behalf of Defra. If you have any questions about this grant after reading the guidance, you can email NEIRF@environment-agency.gov.uk.

          The Rural Payments Agency is on hand to help with SFI applications too: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contact-the-rpa-about-sfi

          Best wishes,
          The Team

          Reply
          • Replies to The Team>

            Comment by Julian Thompson posted on

            Very Helpful! Thank you!

  43. Comment by Daniel Moss posted on

    Hello,we are currently in a environmental stewardship,entry level/higher level stewardship agreement,we wish to exit/transfer to the SFI scheme,we have spoken with the RPA helpline but everyone we have spoken to seems unclear as to how we go about doing this, Any help/guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Replies to Daniel Moss>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Daniel,

      You can be in ES and/or CS and have an SFI agreement at the same time.
      The SFI Handbook goes into more detail. On page 113 and 114, the guidance says you can enter land that’s used for other government schemes and funding sources into an SFI agreement if:

      • you and your land are eligible for each scheme or funding source
      • the activities or outcomes you’re being paid for are compatible
      • you will not be paid twice for a similar activity or outcome on the same area of land at the same time

      Here's a link to the SFI handbook which includes the details of land eligibility and compatible actions: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65a114e53308d200131fbee7/SFI23_handbook__1_.pdf

      The RPA produced a video on how to apply for an SFI agreement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsO9oQYNl70
      This page includes details of where you can get support as you apply: https://farming.campaign.gov.uk/help-and-support/

      This year, we plan to offer most SFI and CS Mid Tier actions through a single application service rather than having separate application windows and processes. We'll remove duplication between SFI and CS Mid Tier actions, wherever possible.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  44. Comment by Daniel Moss posted on

    Thank you for your reply,the ES scheme we are in,is made up off ELS and HLS agreements,the ELS part pays us £30/hectare for the whole farm acreage on a points system,does this mean we couldn’t claim for SAM3,herbal leys on a SFI agreement? As we are in theory getting the payment for ELS on them hectares already? We have read through various guidebooks,and as we understand it,we can’t claim for SAM3 under SFI until we exit our ES scheme,we just would like to clarify that this is the case?
    Thank you for your help
    Daniel Moss

    Reply
    • Replies to Daniel Moss>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Daniel,

      You're welcome.

      It's possible to have a CS and/or ES agreement and an SFI agreement at the same time on the same piece of land if the actions are compatible. We won’t pay you twice if you carry out the same action on the same piece of land. The SFI handbook sets out the rules on how SFI actions can be combined with other actions on your land.

      On page 28 of the SFI handbook, you'll see that SAM3 isn't compatible with any ES options unfortunately. So, yes, your ES agreement would need to end before having an SFI agreement with SAM3 included.

      Here's a link to the handbook: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65a114e53308d200131fbee7/SFI23_handbook__1_.pdf

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  45. Comment by Daniel Moss posted on

    Thank you for your reply,could you please advise us if and how we can exit the ES scheme,is there a set procedure to follow?
    Thank you for your help.
    Daniel Moss

    Reply
    • Replies to Daniel Moss>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Daniel,

      We will provide more details on when and how existing agreement holders can access the new offer (including the SFI management payment) soon - we'll share any updates here on the blog.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  46. Comment by Fran posted on

    I started a CS MT 1st Jan 23 and a SFI 22 on 18 Jan 23.
    I was told the SFI 22 would be stopped early in Oct 23. Having seen all the SFI 23 options, I decided to close my CS MT early as well, as the New SFI 23 offered a better enviromental outcome for my farm. Which was the criteria to not be fined if closing early.
    At the time there was no protocol to do this, so it took quite a few emails to get them both closed.
    My SFI 23 started on 1st Dec 23.
    As I had put moneys into my CS options during 23, will I get a percentage of the annual payment for the CS as I had created an SFI with a better enviromental outcome?

    Reply

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