MHA | Sustainable Farm Incentive 2022 – what you need to know

Sustainable Farm Incentive 2022 – what you need to know

Joe Spencer · January 24th 2022 · read

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By now, almost everyone involved in the farming industry will be aware that the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is being phased out, and indeed at the beginning of December that fact will have been underlined by the receipt of a BPS payment which was appreciably smaller than that received in 2020.

Sustainable Farm Incentive 2022 - background

There has been relatively detail about the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) which is intended to redirect support for the industry. The pilot for the Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI) which is the lowest level ELMS payment was not particularly well received, with about 2000 businesses expressing an interest and slightly under 1000 joining in the trial. This low level of take up may not, however, be entirely reflective of the attractiveness of the scheme. The pilot was only open to those who were not involved in Countryside Stewardship schemes under the old regime, and there is an argument that most of those with an interest in “green “management practices were therefore excluded from entering into the pilot project.

Sustainable Farm Incentive 2022 - scheme rules 

As promised earlier in the year, it was announced on 2nd December that all farms would be allowed into some aspects of Sustainable Farm Incentive from 2022. Only the parts of the scheme relating to soil management have been opened up, and, obviously, parcels such as buffer strips which are already within Stewardship schemes will not be double funded. However, the rates of support range from £22-£58/Ha, Paid quarterly in arrears. Only the introductory and intermediate standards are available in 2022 but it is intended that the advanced standard will be introduced for 2023 onwards.

Clearly these payments will not be a substitute for the BPS payments which had been running at about £230.Ha, but this was never the intention. The amounts now announced are the first element of the basic scheme, designed to be taken up by most farming businesses. In fact, the nearest parallel is the Entry Level Scheme which was the predecessor of BPS, and which was, indeed, a widely adopted, broad, shallow scheme.

The conditions for SFI 2020 are remarkably straightforward requiring little more that soil testing and assessment, overwintered green cover (including autumn sown crops) and some adding of organic matter. It is likely that many farms will already be doing this, so for them, the main commitment will be going online to compete the form in the spring. This point has been recognised and criticised by some environmental groups, but the negative comments miss the point. The 2022 SFI scheme is not the end of the journey towards subsidy change but rather the very first step into a new regime which gives public money for public goods and is aimed to attract 70% of businesses by the time it is complete in 2028

Further announcements on the higher levels of ELMS were announced in January, for introduction in 2023 and 2024, by which stage the existing Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) will be withdrawn (although most of the CSS payment rates will increase in 2023). For the time being, however, those who ignored the pilot project because of existing Stewardship schemes should set aside some time in the spring to identify land free of double funding which could be entered into SFI. £40/Ha is clearly not as good as BPS, but it is still considerably better than nothing, and in terms of pounds per hour of work, completing an application form is likely to be among the better ways of spending time this spring.

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