NSA urges sheep farmers to register interest in Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) pilot

16th March 2021

The National Sheep Association (NSA) greeted last week’s announcement of the launch of the SFI pilot, the first element of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), with enthusiasm and is now encouraging eligible sheep farmers to sign up.
As the start of the transition from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) begins, invitations for expressions of interest have been launched for farmers and land managers in England to shape the development of the new environmental schemes which will replace it.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “NSA has been working with Defra, alongside a number of organisations involved in agriculture and the environment to reach this stage and will continue to work tirelessly to support the development over the coming months and years.”
Defra is looking for several hundred farmers from varying farm types and geographical locations across England to take part in the first phase of piloting to make sure the SFI works in practical terms.
Mr Stocker continues: “This is a wide-reaching opportunity to assess the scheme and potentially to be part of the development (co-design) of a significant and extensive change, that can further enhance the role sheep farming plays in our rural landscape.”
Co-design is a design approach that actively involves users and stakeholders from the beginning of a project, right through to roll-out – it is not a new concept to Defra - it enables them to actively seek input and feedback, based on actual experience.
For the first phase of piloting, eligible applicants must:

  • be a recipient of BPS; registered on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) system
  • have management control of the land for the length of the pilot (including landlord’s permission if applicable)
  • enter land parcels (fields) into the pilot that do not have an existing agri-environment agreement on them, for example Countryside Stewardship
  • enter land parcels that are in England
  • enter land parcels that are not common land
  • if not currently in the BPS, there will be opportunities to take part in future phases of the pilot

The window to register interest opened on Monday 15th March and closes on Monday 11th April 2021; more details can be found on the Defra website at www.gov.uk/government/publications/sustainable-farming-incentive-scheme-pilot-launch-overview

Farmers will be informed by email or post, if selected for the pilot (or not) from Monday 24th May 2021. Selections will be random, from categories covering various types of farm. If selected, an application can be made in June 2021. Over the summer the agreements will be developed and agreed.
The first agreements will start in October 2021, and the pilot is expected to last until 2024.