Sustainable Farming Incentive

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is a new government scheme that rewards environmental land management. Find out more about the new policy and keep checking back for updates as the scheme develops.

From 2021, the area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England is being phased out over seven years. By 2028, farmers will no longer receive any BPS payment from the government. Instead, a selection of new payment systems, based on environmental outcomes and public goods, are going to be introduced.

The first to be introduced in England is the Sustainable Farming IncentivePolicy for the Sustainable Farming Incentive is still under development, as such the details around the new payment system are changing regularly. 

Main objectives of the Sustainable Farming Incentive

  1. Maintaining and enhancing the natural environment
  2. Reducing carbon emissions
  3. Improving the health and welfare of farmed animals

Latest information

DEFRA received over 2,000 submissions to take part in the Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot

Latest progress update from DEFRA – June 2021:

- Revised set of four core standards (see below for detail) available from early 2022 to all farmers

- Other standards available from 2024 

Timeline of activity

2021 - Pilot year

Pilot starting October, 2021:

Final details of initial set of standards which will be available from 2022 to be released in Nov 2021.

2022 – Initial scheme rollout

  • Scheme open to all farmers who currently receive BPS in spring 2022
  • Four core standards available:

Arable and horticultural soils standard

Level Payment per hectare per year Actions
Introductory £26 Complete a basic soil assessment Establish green cover over winter (5% area) Increase soil organic matter (10% area)
Intermediate £41 (Introductory plus £15) Complete a basic soil assessment Establish green cover over winter (10% area) Increase soil organic matter (15% area) Use no, low or min tillage techniques (25% area)
Advanced £60 (Intermediate plus £19) Complete a basic soil assessment Create a soil management plan Establish green cover over winter (15% area) Increase soil organic matter (20% area) Use no, low or min tillage techniques (25% area)
See full details of the arable and horticultural standard

Improved grassland soils standard

Level Payment per hectare per year Actions
Introductory £26 Complete a basic soil assessment Add legume, herb and grass mix (5% area) Maintain permanent grassland (5% area) Manage stocking density (5% area)
Intermediate £44 (Introductory plus £18) Complete a basic soil assessment Add legume, herb and grass mix (10% area) Maintain permanent grassland (10% area) Manage stocking density (10% area)
Advanced £70 (Intermediate plus £26) Complete a basic soil assessment Create a soil management plan Add legume, herb and grass mix (15% area) Maintain permanent grassland (15% area) Manage stocking density (15% area)
See full details of the improved grassland soils standard

Moorland and rough grazing standard

  • An introductory standard where farmers will undertake actions to assess the range of habitats and features present on their individual moorlands
  • Identify pressures on these assets and the risk posed by wildfires
  • Currently in development with farmers and stakeholder over summer 2021. Further details along with payment rates will be available by November 2021
  • Will be available to all farmers with moorland, even those in existing Countryside Stewardship programs
  • Farmers not already in existing schemes will also be able to apply for Countryside Stewardship, alongside participating in the Sustainable Farming Incentive standard if they want to deliver other actions in moorland areas

Annual health and welfare review

  • First step on the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, Defra will fund a yearly visit from a vet, or vet-led team
  • Time-limited offer for three years
  • Includes diagnostic testing for priority diseases, bespoke advice on health, welfare biosecurity and responsible use of medicines
  • Farmer and vet to agree a series of recommended actions that can be monitored on a yearly basis
  • Testing will focus on identifying priority disease and conditions in cattle, pigs and sheep:
    • Cattle: Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD)
    • Pigs: Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus (PRRS)
    • Sheep: Parasitic resistance to anthelmintic treatments
  • Payment between £269 to £775 depending on species

2022 to 2024 – Full scheme rollout

  • More standards to be added into the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme between 2022 and 2024
  • Will be decided on payment rates for these new standards, as set out in the payment principles document

Full list of standards that are being considered:

Other schemes in development:

  • Dry stone walls standard
  • Heritage standard
  • Farmyard infrastructure standard
  • Orchards and permanent crops standard
  • Peat soils standard
  • Agroforestry standard

Further information

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