Rural Hub

2022 Sustainable Farming Incentive options

4 mins

Defra has published details of the payment rates for the four standards that will be available to farmers in England through the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) from Spring 2022.

A pilot version of the scheme is currently in place involving nearly 1,000 farmers. However, the government intends to make ‘core elements’ of the scheme available more widely from next year, opening the SFI up to any farmer in England with more than 5ha of land and eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

The scheme will be gradually expanded until all elements are available from 2024/25. Defra has set itself a target of 70% of farms and land being part of the scheme by 2028.

Initially farmers will be able to sign up to three standards: Arable and Horticultural Soils, Improved Grassland Soils, and Moorland and Rough Grazing. Livestock farmers will also be able to claim funding to access an annual health and welfare visit from a vet.

Within each of the standards, farmers will be able to pick whether to follow an introductory, intermediate or advanced level of activity. The scheme has been deliberately designed to be modular, so that farmers are free to choose which elements work for them. 

Arable and Horticultural Soils

The Arable and Horticultural Soils standard offers payments of between £22 and £40/ha, depending on whether a farmer chooses to implement it at an introductory or intermediate level. The introductory level will require a farmer to test soil organic matter, undertake a soil assessment and produce a soil management plan. They will also need to ensure at least 70% of the land in the standard has a green cover between December and February (which can include autumn sown crops and weedy stubbles) and commit to adding organic matter, including sown cover crops, to a third of the land entered into the standard each year. The requirements for the intermediate level are the same, but 20% of the green cover used must be multi-species green cover. The advanced option will not be available until 2023.

Improved Grassland Soils

The Improved Grassland Soil Standard will pay between £28 and £58/ha. The introductory level will require the farmer to test soil organic matter, undertake a soil assessment and produce a soil management plan. They must also have 95% green cover to protect soil. To qualify for the intermediate level, farmers must also establish or maintain herbal leys to improve soil health on at least 15% of land. The advanced level will not be available until 2023.

Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard

A fixed payment of £148 per agreement per year, plus an additional variable rate of £6.45/ha will be paid under the introductory level of the scheme. To qualify applicants must verify and record soil types, evaluate the public goods potential and condition of the moorland and identify opportunities to maintain or enhance public goods. Intermediate and advanced options will follow later in the scheme’s rollout.

Annual Health and Welfare Review.

Farmers will be able to get funding for an annual vet visit, from a vet of their choice, to reduce endemic diseases and conditions within livestock. This will initially be available to farmers with either more than 50 pigs, 20 sheep or 10 cattle who are eligible for BPS. Payments rates are as follows: Pigs – £775; Sheep – £488; Cattle where BVD testing is required – £483 and Cattle where BVD testing is not required – £336.

Farmers are likely to be able to enter the following additional SFI standards in the future:

  • Integrated pest management, nutrient management and hedgerows – from 2023
  • Agroforestry, intermediate and advanced level of moorland standards, low and no input grassland, water body buffering and farmland biodiversity – from 2024
  • Organic, on-farm woodland, orchards/specialist horticulture – from 2025


The scheme will be open to farmers who are eligible for BPS, even if they already have an existing agri-environmental scheme agreement, provided the SFI standard they choose is compatible with their existing agreement and does not result in them being paid twice for similar activities. However, cross-border land parcels will not be eligible for SFI in the early rollout.

Farmers can choose how many of their fields to enter into the SFI – they do not have to enter their whole farm. 


SFI agreements will last for three years with some flexibility for farmers to amend them every 12 months. Only in exceptional circumstances will farmers be allowed to take land out of an agreement or reduce the level of ambition within a standard. But they will be allowed to incorporate additional standards as they become available, add land parcels or increase their ambition levels.

Payment timing

To help cashflow, payments will be paid quarterly, starting three months after each agreement starts. Each instalment will represent one quarter of the annual payment.

Application window

The application window for the 2022 scheme will be open for at least 10 weeks, but the exact timing is yet to be confirmed. From 2024 onwards, farmers should be able to apply for and enter into SFI at any time of year.

If you would like to know more about the SFI – or any other support scheme – contact a member of the Farming Department.

Paul Dennison
Senior Associate Director, Farm Business Consultant
+44 (0)1609 897104
Send a message to Paul Dennison
4 mins

Related Articles


Improving Farm Productivity grant open

The much anticipated Improving Farm Productivity grant – part of the Farming Investment Fund – is now open to farmers, foresters and growers in England, as well as agricultural contractors. Those planning to invest in their businesses are being urged to consider whether this grant could be suitable for them. To be successful, projects are […]
2 mins

8 key trends driving change in the rural sector in 2022

Land and property specialists Strutt & Parker has highlighted some of the key themes likely to drive change in the rural sector in 2022 and how farmers and landowners might best respond. The rural sector is facing a period of dramatic change and Christmas and New Year is a good time to reflect on future […]

Critical six months lie ahead for ELM scheme

It has been a long time coming but we are about to see whether the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, in its various forms, has been worth the wait. Lots of people are desperate for it to be a success. Farmers want a practical scheme with clear environmental outcomes and easy-to-deal-with administration. Environmentalists see the […]

Top tips on unlocking opportunity on farms and estates

At this time of rapid change for the rural sector, it can feel very difficult to know where best to invest your time, energy and money within your business. Farmers and landowners are facing a barrage of new challenges from a variety of directions, including a changing policy framework, new environmental and property legislation, changing […]

Talk to us

Want to talk to us about our rural specialisms? Send us a message and we will make sure it gets to the right person.

Please write your name
Please write a message

Sign up

Sign up to be notified when we launch new publications so you’re always ahead of the research.

Please write your name
Please write a correct email address
Send me updates about
Please tick a box