Sustainable Farming Incentive – expression of interest now open

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

The window is now open for farmers to express interest in taking part in the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot.

With the removal of Direct Payments in England over the seven year Agricultural Transition Period (ATP), it is crucial that farming businesses prepare for this reduction in income. To calculate how your business will be affected, please visit the AHDB Business Impact Calculator.

Defra are aiming to recruit several hundred farmers in the first phase of the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot, from a range of farm types across England.


For the first phase of piloting, a farmer is only eligible if they: 

  • are a recipient of the Basic Payments Scheme, registered on the Rural Payments Agency system 
  • enter land parcels (fields) into the pilot that do not have an existing agri-environment agreement on them 
  • have management control of the land for the duration of the pilot. They must either own the land with management control or have a tenancy of enough length to implement their pilot agreement (including landlord’s permission if required) 
  • enter land parcels that are in England  
  • enter land parcels that are not common land. There are plans to extend eligibility to include farmers who aren’t eligible for, or don’t claim, BPS later on.   Specific farm types not eligible for the first phase, like farms on common land may also be included later

Farmers can apply here to register their interest in participating in the Pilot scheme, before the 11 April deadline. More details on what is involved and why you should consider taking part can be found in our recent blog here.

Separately to Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot, Defra have previously released details of the Countryside Stewardship scheme for 2021. Farmers applying in the current application window will have a guaranteed income stream, with fixed yearly payments until 2027, the end of the ATP.

Countryside Stewardship is also a way to create a new income stream to prepare your business for the reduction in Direct Payments. The Government guaranteed in 2020 that farmers entering new Countryside Stewardship agreements will be given the option to end their agreement early in order to enter environmental land management schemes, like the Sustainable Farming Incentive, if they wish. Further details on what is new in the Countryside Stewardship scheme may be found here.

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