SFI and CS update

SFI and CS update

“The Defra Secretary of State, The Rt. Hon Steve Barclay MP has issued a letter to farmers following his address at the Oxford Farming Conference in early January to announce updates to the Agricultural Transition Plan”, advises Bella Stuart of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.

“The letter outlines what Mr Barclay describes as plans to deliver the biggest upgrade to farming schemes since the start of the agricultural transition. It announces that, from January 2024, payment rates for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements will be increased by an average of 10% to reflect changes in agricultural markets and the cost of delivering actions. These increases will be automatically applied to existing agreements”, says Stuart and adds that, more maintenance actions are to be introduced so that farmers will be paid for existing actions to maintain habitats such as maintaining species rich grassland where payment rates will increase from £182 to £646 per hectare.

As of this summer, applicants will be able to apply for CS Mid-Tier and SFI actions together in one application, with around 50 new actions to be launched this year with the aim of making SFI and CS of benefit to farmers regardless of farm type or tenure.

“These changes should avoid the need to manage separate applications and agreements across different schemes and are also intended to improve what is available for moorland and grassland farms. Given that there are a significant number of those farm types in the South West, this is likely to be helpful for our clients”, comments Stuart.

“The Defra letter also confirms that farms that are already in existing SFI agreements will be able to add new actions to their agreements or benefit from the expanded offer when it is introduced. There is no indication as to the timing for the introduction of the 2024 SFI and CS offers and we therefore await those with interest. In the meantime, farmers wishing to apply for the currently available actions can do so”, concludes Stuart.

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