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Should Businesses apply for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)? The simple answer to this question is “yes”, but it should be noted that SFI 2023 is not a ‘silver bullet’ to replace the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
Earlier this month saw the launch of the 156-page SFI handbook – the latest Defra document outlining how the initiative will work.
The handbook builds on the January announcement by Defra which shared information on how they were going to boost interest in the scheme, by introducing an annual management payment and a much-expanded list of SFI actions for farmers and land managers to be paid for in 2023.
The first impression is that SFI 2023 is simpler to understand, less prescriptive and is easier to incorporate into most farming businesses.
Adaptable businesses will be able to use the payments to supplement a sustainable farming system, offering greater flexibility than traditional Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements.
As ever, businesses should avoid over-reliance on scheme payments to make a profit, but where used appropriately, some of these options could assist in improving overall enterprise gross margins.
SFI 2023 not only offers a range of options that could suit a mix of farm types but also offers the flexibility for businesses to apply those options in different ways.
For example, through alternative herbal ley mixes, the ability to graze cover crops or the capability to supplementary feed in low input grassland.
It is heartening to note that the new approach from Defra appears to encourage farmers to evidence they have delivered the desired outcomes, without being overly prescriptive of exactly how to deliver them.