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

New and improved actions for upland farmers

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Sustainable Farming Incentive
Snow on upland landscape
Credit: Melanie Edgar

Last week, we published a post about the Agricultural Transition Plan update. The update includes the full range of Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) actions — new and updated — with their payment rates. 

In this post, we will focus on the new actions relevant to those who farm in the uplands: both moorland and non-moorland grassland.  

We recognise the unique challenges that upland farmers face. We have taken and will continue to take action that ensures upland farmers have access to funding that supports delivery of our environmental objectives in their areas in England, alongside the sustainable production of food.

For example, following feedback from farmers and stakeholders, we acted last year to change 5 actions where the prices were different for lowland and upland farmers. Farmers can now benefit from payment rates which are the same for upland and lowland farmers. 

Where upland and lowland payment rates have been made equal, we are combining the actions to make the scheme simpler, for example on woodland pasture.  

Moorland offer: the new and the improved

We are significantly expanding and enhancing the offer for moorlands.  

We have developed 5 new actions, which will more comprehensively and fairly reward the actions taken in moorland settings.  

For example, one new action, low grazing on moorland, pays farmers to maintain low livestock density on moorland which aims to support and enhance moorland habitat alongside farming.  

This action gives farmers the choice to select from 3 ranges of livestock density, as best fits their moorland and their business. This action will have a premium payment applied for those with either low or limited grazing on moorland, recognising the more ambitious nature of those actions.  

We are also introducing a new action for managing non-peat moorland soils for flood and drought resilience. This action will help retain water in the uplands, by slowing the flow of surface run off.  

The full list of actions relating to moorland and upland peat are as follows. 

Action   Action type (action code)   Duration   Annual payment  
Assess moorland and produce a written record   Existing SFI(MOR1)   3 years   £10.60 per hectare (ha) and £272 per agreement  
Action aim: You understand how your moorland contributes to providing environmental benefits and how it could provide more in the future  
Low grazing on moorland   New   3 years   £20-£66 per ha dependent on stocking density  
Action aim: Moorland is grazed with a low livestock density to support and enhance moorland habitat alongside farming  
Supplement: Keep cattle and ponies on moorland   New   3 years   £7-£23 per ha dependent on stocking  
Action aim: When you graze moorland with a low livestock density, you do so with a proportion of cattle or ponies or horses  
Manage livestock grazing on moorland   New   3 years   £33-50 per ha depending on stocking dates  
Action aim: Livestock grazing on moorland is managed to avoid impacting habitats which are sensitive to damage from grazing, wherever possible  
General moorland management   Updated  

CS (UP3)  

5 years   £55 per ha  
Action aim: You follow best practice guidelines for moorlands – this is a base action for certain supplements  
Supplement: Manage non-peat moorland soils for flood and drought resilience   New   10 years   £160 per ha  
Action aim: Activities are carried out to slow the flow of surface runoff from rainfall events and enable more water to be retained in the catchment  
Supplement: Rewetting peat   Updated  

CS (SP2)  

Same as base action   £181 per ha  
Action aim: Land is rewetted or existing land is kept wet. On moorlands, the primary focus will on peatlands. 
Supplement: Maintain features for wildfire management (fire and fuel breaks)   New   TBC   TBC  
Action aim: Fire and fuel breaks are maintained to disrupt the movement of wildfires across habitats  
Supplement: Administration of group managed agreements   Existing  

CS (SP10)  

Same as agreement duration   £7 per ha  
Action aim: There are well-administered group agreements for common land or shared grazing with 2 or more legal interests  

We are also improving the existing offer that farmers can apply. We are: 

  • ensuring payments more accurately reflect costs incurred by moorland farmers through the introduction of stepped payment rates for grazing actions.  
  • making it more flexible. The stepped payments will enable farmers to choose actions that work for their business, giving them greater ownership in the delivery of their outcomes.  

Existing capital items will continue to be available, for example to support the restoration and management of upland peat and natural flood management.

In addition, we are looking to introduce new capital items for wildfire management and for people to map their moorlands identifying sensitive habitats and features thereby allowing people to better plan their grazing and restoration works. 

Grassland offer: the new and the improved

As part of our review of payments, we reviewed the balance of prices between ‘creation’ actions and ‘maintenance’ actions in relation to some specific grassland habitat actions, for example species-rich grasslands.  

Historically, we paid much higher prices for actions involving creating or restoring habitats and features and lower prices to maintain them. Farmers and land managers told us that they feel that those who have already undertaken the ‘creation’ or ‘restoration’ activities are disadvantaged. 

We’re re-balancing the payments for ‘creation’ and ‘maintenance’ actions, in particular for grassland habitats, so that those who have already made changes are not disadvantaged.  

For example, on 1 January 2024, the price for maintaining species rich grassland will increase from £182 to £646 per hectare. 

Moving forward, we will pay for the cost of creating a grassland habitat in full, up front, as a separate capital grant offer. This will enable us to increase regular payments.

Learn more 

This post is one of a series we'll publish on the 2024 offer for each farm type in the coming weeks. By subscribing to the blog you'll get an email alert whenever a new post is published.

We recently set up a series of monthly sector-specific webinars for farmers. We plan to host a specific webinar for upland farmers in the months ahead, so do look out for updates here on the blog once we have a date in the diary.  

You can also take a look at the full list of actions available in the combined Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) offer in the Technical Annex to the ATP.  

Finally, if you have any questions about our work, do leave a comment below. 

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  1. Comment by James posted on

    Thank you. How do you define an upland farm....SDA land or above the moorland line? Or SDA land below the line but with commons rights?
    Are these moorland actions for private sole occupancy moors or are they for moorland commons. If the later how are the stocking levels going to be applied......will it be averaged over the common or drilled down to individual commoners and how many of their own rights they choose to use? How will the actions /payments be distributed between common owners and the commoners?

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi James,

      The moorland actions listed within this article apply to land that is above or crosses the moorland land and contains one or more moorland priority habitats or species. The moorland actions will be available on moorland commons.

      To apply for an agreement on common land, there must be a single entity; this usually involves multiple parties agreeing and coming together as a formal group.

      For land below the moorland line, all the SFI and CS actions are available to upland farmers in the same way as lowland farmers. Payment rates between the uplands and lowlands actions are now the same.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  2. Comment by Jack wallbank posted on

    What is the stocking density for the moorland option low grazing

    • Replies to Jack wallbank>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Jack,

      We will publish further information 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.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  3. Comment by Anonymous posted on

    When will more detail be available on how the moorland options can be stacked and how stocking densities effect the sliding payments for each option?

    • Replies to Anonymous>

      Comment by The Team posted on


      We will publish further information later in 2024, before these changes are introduced in the summer. The revised offer includes tiered payments that reward lower stocking rates with higher payments – compensating those who make the biggest changes.

      The current CS offer for moorland can only be accessed via Natural England and while the payment rates are fixed, the stocking rates required by NE can vary considerably between agreements due to the variation in habitats and their condition. It is the intention that grazing actions will be available to everyone in the same way, with the more complex moorland restoration actions requiring checks and advice. This will allow farmers and graziers access to these actions whilst time is spent developing moorland restoration plans.

      Hope that helps,
      The Team

  4. Comment by Claire posted on

    How will land managers gauge what stocking rate is needed to maintain or restore moorland? Will there also be measures in place to ensure the low grazing supplements aren't claimed when a moorland area is undergrazed?
    In addition the structural assessment under the MOR1 option can be misleading, a moor can be overgrazed in areas but appear undergrazed due to a surplus of unpalatable grasses, leading stock to focus on certain areas.

    • Replies to Claire>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Claire,

      There will be guidance and other funding available to support farmers in determining the most appropriate grazing regime on their moorland.

      Those farming on SSSIs will require Natural England consent and will therefore need to negotiate stocking levels with their Natural England advisor.

      Those undertaking more complex actions, such as natural flood management and rewetting peatland, may also need to discuss their grazing regime with an advisor.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  5. Comment by Tom davies posted on

    We're in the process of converting some unused land which is too awkward and steep to cultivate into areas to graze cattle in Worcestershire. Does all that is mentioned in this article only apply to proper upland farmers? Or could we receive the upfront grant funding to fence the surrounding area?


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