SFI Update & Green Hay

Defra have recently updated the Agricultural Transition Plan and announced a number of changes to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) for 2024 which include:-

  • Increasing payment rates by an average of 10% for SFI and CS Agreements for many options.
  • Increasing the number of actions on offer in their Environmental Land Management Schemes with up to 50 new actions being released in summer.
  • Making the schemes easier to access with a streamlined application service so farmers and land managers can apply for SFI and CS Mid-Tier in one go.
  • Defra will pay a premium for high ambition actions for delivering packages of actions that will achieve greater environmental benefits.
  • Defra continue to prioritise an “advise and prevent” approach across the schemes and regulation which should hopefully make things fairer for those involved.

The above are currently announcements and will not be implemented until later in 2024 so we do not know the full picture at this stage. The SFI as it stands however does seem to be well received by many of our clients with options such as NUM3 Legume Fallow proving an attractive opportunity to not only provide a beneficial break crop but also guarantee an attractive return during the current unseasonably wet times when farmers have struggled to establish other traditional break crops.

The 50 new actions to be launched later this year will enable access to funding for things like precision farming and agro-forestry and will also see new actions to improve the offer for those on moorland and grassland. Defra want to pay those farmers who are already carrying out existing actions to maintain habitats, and it is especially interesting to see that the price of maintaining the species rich grassland, for example, will rise from £182/hectare to £646/hectare. The maintenance and establishment of species rich grassland is something which seems to be at the forefront of policy as shown by the increase in the payment.

I have recently been involved with a proposal from a public body to take an area of SSSI grassland on a licence for the mowing of green hay. The proposal is for them to take two cuts early in the season, with the grass being immediately removed from the site and spread directly on another area of the site where works have been carried out and the quality of grassland has been depleted. As it stands the proposal is to carry out this procedure two years running and it will be interesting to see the outcome, and to learn whether the meadow restoration has been successful.

Alice Hood BA (Hons) PgD MRICS FAAV

Tel: 01904 489731

Email: alice.hood@stephenson.co.uk

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