SFI 2023 vs SFI 2024

SFI 2023 VS SFI 2024

The 2024 SFI Offer brings together the Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier and SFI 2023 Schemes, with some new options and wider eligibility (open to non-BPS claimers).

So, what does this really mean?

Below is an overview of the key differences between the two schemes and some key updates including some about old SFI actions, based on documents currently released.

What is staying the same?

– 25% Area Restriction
– 94 out of the 102 options on offer will remain available as 3-year options, making the scheme more accessible for Tenant Farmers
– “Pick & Mix” approach to building your agreement – you can choose from the list and build an agreement that suits you and your farm.

The End of Mid-Tier:

– More than 50 options that were available under the Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier scheme are now available as part of the 2024 SFI offer.
– From September, those with a Mid-Tier Agreement in place should have the opportunity to end their agreements early to apply for an SFI Agreement.
– Currently, there is no requirement to carry over the same or similar actions to a new SFI Agreement.

Higher Tier Changes:

– Those with a Higher Tier Agreement are expected to complete the full agreement.
– This year will see a later application window for the first 2025 schemes to begin in January 2025. However, the plan is currently that the application window will remain open on a rolling basis.

What’s new?

– 20 new options including actions for Agroforestry and Precision Farming which are discussed in further detail below.
– Within the SFI rules, requirements are more clearly identified with a “must” in the prescription wording. These need to be met to fulfil the action’s aim.
– Endorsed Options
o 16 Endorsed Actions in total which will include options to target species-rich grassland, species-rich floodplain meadows, priority habitats and rush control.
o These will require advice and approval from a Natural England or Historic England advisor.
o These are to make some “higher-level” options more accessible and reduce the need for lots of complicated, bespoke Higher Tier Agreements.
o The only Endorsed Action to become available at the full release of this scheme in July 2024 will be species-rich grassland, paying £646 per hectare.
o Further details on the other options will become available later in the year.
– Those who haven’t previously claimed BPS will be able to apply for the 2024 SFI Offer.

PRF1 – Variable Rate Application of Nutrients:

– This option will pay £27 per hectare
– 3-year option
– The aim is to use precision farming equipment to apply all nutrients at a variable rate or to match the nutrient needs of crops on different areas of land.
– Should the aim be met, this action could help to reduce the over-application of nutrients, improve yields from more consistent crop growth and improve water and air quality.
– It can be rotational or static as well as being whole or part parcel.
– Currently, “all nutrients” is defined as:
o Manufactured fertilisers
o Solid manures
o Slurry and digestate
– Those applying for this action will need to apply all nutrients across land in this option using variable rate application equipment.

SOH1 – No-till Farming:

– This option will pay £73 per hectare
– 3-year option
– The aim is to use no-tillage farming techniques to minimise soil disturbance.
– If the action’s aims are met, this action should improve soil health, fertiliser and structure, help to retain the soil’s nutrients and organic matter and reduce soil runoff by improving soil water storage.
– This is a whole parcel option.
– This option is static and must be done at the same location for each year of the duration of your agreement.
– Crops must be established using a no tillage direct drill or broadcasting equipment. “Crops” include cash crops, cover crops and temporary grassland.
– Direct drills are defined as tine drills, disc drills and precision seed drills and broadcasting equipment must have rearward facing tine harrows.
– The use of conventional or shallow min-till cultivation machinery to prepare land for sowing crops or destroying cover crops is not permitted.

Agroforestry Options:

– There are currently two new agroforestry options available as part of the 2024 SFI offer:

o AGF1 – Maintain very low density in-field agroforestry on less sensitive land
£248 per hectare
3-year option
Whole or part parcel
30-50 trees per hectare

o AGF2 – Maintain low density in-field agroforestry on less sensitive land
3-year option
Whole or part parcel
51-130 trees per hectare

o The aims of these options is that there is an established (very) low density in-field agroforestry system that’s maintained so there is a combination of trees and arable/horticultural crops, grassland for forage or ELM scheme options.
o This action has been created to help reduce soil erosion and flooding, improve water and air quality, provide shelter for crops and livestock and contribute to carbon capture and storage.
o Both options can be layered with other options such as herbal ley, winter bird food and flower-rich plots.
o The hectarage entered into the options can include the area between the trees used to grow crops/for grassland.
o Can use the Forestry Commission’s SFI Agroforestry map to find out if you are on “less sensitive land”

Changes to “old” options that will apply to those who receive an SFI 2024 offer:

No Insecticide:

– Previously the aim specified that you could not use any insecticide products, the new aim states that these products cannot be used on an arable crop or horticultural crop.
o This action is now tied to a crop rather than an area of land for a certain length of time.
– For arable crops, you must do this action on one cash-crop (this does not include short-term specialist crops) from when it’s down until it’s harvested.
– It must be done on at least one cash crop sown during each year of the 3-year option. You are allowed to harvest the crop in the subsequent year, providing you sow the next crop for this action in the same year.
– No longer allowed on miscanthus.
– Rotational for arable crops, static for permanent crops.
– Can be applied on a part parcel now rather than just being available for whole parcels.

Cover Crops:

– Options for Autumn, Summer and Spring cover crops are now available alongside the current Winter Cover Crop option.
– The new aim for the cover crop options is that there is a multi-species cover crop present between harvesting a cash crop and establishing the next cash crop.
o This differs from the previous aim as it just stated that there needed to be a multi-species cover crop present over the winter months and didn’t specify the need for it to be between cash crops.
– Furthermore, the cover crop established must not be harvested as a cash crop which is also a new requirement, not present for the old cover crop option.

If you have any questions or need help putting together an agreement please contact advice@wilsonwraight.co.uk

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