Six additional standards announced for the SFI

Thursday, 26 January 2023

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has today (Thursday 26 January 2023) set out more detail on both the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS).

Six additional standards will be added to the SFI this year, three having been brought forward from 2024:

Additional standards

Existing standards


Arable and horticultural soils

Improved grassland

Improved grassland soils

Low input grassland


Arable and horticultural land standard


Integrated pest management


Nutrient management



In addition, the difficulties tenant farmers have faced participating in the schemes has been recognised with shorter three-year agreements having been introduced with no landlord consent required. There are also no penalties in the event a farmer leaves the scheme early. 

More details on CS have also been announced, with more flexibility around application and management of agreements.

This accelerated roll out, combined with the announcement from Farming Minister the Rt Hon Mark Spencer at the Oxford Farming Conference around increased payment rates are a step in the right direction. However, levy payers need to be aware that the net payment for each scheme will vary, according to the cost involved in participation. The effect on the farm business as a whole will need to be considered, including the cost of taking land out of production. The effect will vary widely between different businesses depending on what actions are already being taken. More details can be found in the work we have already carried out on the SFI.

A key point to note is that the new standards introduced today are disaggregated with different payment rates for different components.

For example, under the hedgerow standard, there are separate payment rates for:

  • Assessing and recording hedgerow condition
  • Managing hedgerows so there's a range of different heights and widths
  • Maintaining existing hedgerow trees or planting new ones

In the SFI pilot, the hedgerow standard had one payment rate per ambition level and a number of actions were required to qualify for an overall payment for that level. This new 'pick and mix' system should allow more choice and flexibility for farmers to choose the actions which suit their farm. Information on the payment rates is available on the Defra website.

It's worth noting, however, that the payment rates and set up for the existing SFI standards are unchanged and have not been disagreggated.

AHDB will be incorporating the latest information on these scheme to analyse their impact on farm businesses, using our model farms to help our levy payers make informed, evidence-based decisions.