SFI pilot farmers to get £5,000 each ‘to help Defra learn’

Further details have emerged about how Defra plans to pay farmers who will be testing the government’s Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) pilot in England.

Every farmer included in the pilot will be paid for specific learning activities and to provide regular feedback “to help Defra learn”, the department revealed on the Gov.uk website on Monday 7 June.

Learning activities are expected to take up 15 hours/month and farmers will each be paid £5,000 for the first year, which is equivalent to £27/hour. This is a flat rate that will be paid in monthly instalments and in addition to any payments farmers will receive for land management actions.

See also: Payment rates revealed for new Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot

Farmers will be required to share their land management planning and keep a journal of what is and is not working well, including their thoughts on how the scheme might be improved.

“Most of these hours will involve ‘thinking while doing’. For example, you’d be thinking about how aspects of the scheme, such as advice or land management actions, could be improved while you’re planning or physically undertaking work,” said Defra.

Learning activities will be based on farmers’ experience of carrying out actions associated with the pilot agreement. This includes:

  • Making an application and entering into an agreement
  • Delivering individual agreements
  • Planning and implementing chosen land management actions.

Every participating farmer will be required to complete “core learning” activities, such as answering questionnaires on how things are going, filling in pilot journals to record information, ideas and experiences, and doing tasks to explore specific subjects.

Outside of core learning, farmers will be encouraged to take part in other pilot activities, such as workshops, surveys and detailed research.

Beyond this, Defra expects pilot learning activities will evolve to allow some farmers to host farm open days or share their experiences through workshops, podcasts or blogs. Some may be asked to get involved with wider publicity.

Rates review

Defra plans to keep learning-related payments under review for future years of the pilot “depending on how much time is spent on the activities and how much learning is needed”.

More than 2,000 farmers expressed an interest in taking part in the SFI pilot, which, alongside the Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes, will form the upcoming Environmental Land Management (ELM) offering.

Successful candidates are now in the process of developing their SFI applications, with the first pilot agreements starting from October.

The post-Brexit ELM scheme, which will pay farmers “public money to deliver public goods”, is due to be rolled out from 2024.

Explore more / Transition

This article forms part of Farmers Weekly’s Transition series, which looks at how farmers can make their businesses more financially and environmentally sustainable.

During the series we follow our group of 16 Transition Farmers through the challenges and opportunities as they seek to improve their farm businesses.

Transition is an independent editorial initiative supported by our UK-wide network of partners, who have made it possible to bring you this series.

Visit the Transition content hub to find out more.