DEFRA’s Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme opens

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DEFRA’s Sustainable Farming Incentive is now open for applications from farmers in England who are in receipt of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments.

Introduced as part of the Agricultural Transition Plan, under which two further new environmental land management schemes will be unveiled, the Sustainable Farming Incentive is an accessible and open-ended scheme. It will provide incentives to implement sustainable practices regarding food production and environmental improvement, and support long-term food security by investing in healthy soil, water, and biodiverse ecosystems.

To that end, the Sustainable Farming Incentive will introduce two soil standards to promote the role good quality soil plays in successful farming and sustaining the environment. There will also be a moorland standard whereby DEFRA will pay farmers to assess the condition of the moorland with a view to further action going forward.

DEFRA has also launched a new application service, featuring automated checks, with the aim of improving efficiency for farmers accessing the scheme. The new functionality will be rolled out during July. Therefore, whilst all BPS-eligible farmers can apply for the Sustainable Farming Incentive, there will be different ways to access the service during the initial phase of the rollout.

Those in BPS only, can now apply directly through the Rural Payments service whereas those in BPS with an existing Countryside Stewardship (CS) or Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreement, or farming commons, will be asked to contact the RPA to support them with their application.

The scheme will be expanded over the next three years as Direct Payments are reduced, with the full set of standards implemented by 2025.