Farming News - DEFRA: Expanded and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive offer for farmers published

DEFRA: Expanded and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive offer for farmers published

  • Expanded Sustainable Farming Incentive offer from July will give the sector a clear path forward and boost farm business resilience.    
  • Actions available to farmers quadruple versus last year and include a new, expanded offer for upland farmers, agroforestry and precision farming actions to boost food productivity.    
  • By including simplified Countryside Stewardship (CS) Mid-Tier and SFI actions in one place, the expanded offer will mean farmers can access more actions, more easily.   



Full details of the expanded and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) offer available to farmers from July have been published by the government today (Tuesday 21 May).     

     The expanded SFI offer will be open to new entrants for the first time and will initially comprise 102 actions, designed in collaboration with the agricultural sector, including over 20 new options to support more sustainable food production, – with payments for precision farming, agroforestry, a new and expanded offer for upland farmers and more actions for tenants on short-term contracts. Sticking to the plan for agriculture, the new actions will help farmers to reduce input costs and boost yields.   

  In addition, further new actions will support flood preparedness, helping businesses to become more resilient to the changing climate and challenging weather conditions.      

   The SFI works for all farmers, including tenant and upland farmers. With improved choice and payment rates, the current scheme is on track to be the most popular ever, with 23,000 applications received.  

    More than 50 simplified actions from Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier will be merged into SFI to streamline the application process for farmers. They include a number of actions where durations have been reduced from 5 to 3 years to align with the needs of tenant farmers. In addition to the expanded offer, the government has also launched a new digital tool known as ‘Find funding for land or farms’ to signpost customers toward the funding that is available to them.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:     

     “I recognise that farmers have had to deal with difficult circumstances this year, which is why we have delivered on our commitment to provide further detail on the expanded SFI offer ahead of applications opening in July.      

     “The new expanded SFI offer gives farmers more choice, makes things easier and pays out more, so they can get on with the important job of producing high quality food in a sustainable way.”     

           Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that the application window for CS Higher Tier, which provides grants to help farmers protect, restore or enhance the environment, will open in the winter, with agreements starting in January 2025. We have been improving the offer, making it simpler and reducing the burden of seeking advice and endorsement.    

   We are developing even more actions and features to be added to the expanded SFI offer later this year, including an educational access action announced in January’s Agricultural Transition Plan update. These new actions will ensure farmers have greater choice and flexibility to produce food within SFI in a way that works best for them.    

     The announcement comes alongside the commitment made at the Oxford Farming Conference in January to increase payment rates by an average of 10% for SFI and CS agreements and introduce premium payments for actions that achieve the greatest environmental benefits. The doubling of management payments announced by the Prime Minister at the NFU Conference will be paid for the first time this Summer. It will be split across quarterly payments in the first year, putting an additional £1,000 in the farmers’ bank accounts.  

       In March, we ensured SFI applicants will only be able to put 25% of their land into six SFI actions that take land out of direct production, and we are now applying the 25% rule to actions in the expanded offer, including in-field grass strips, unharvested cereal headland, bumblebird mix and cultivated areas for arable plants. We will continue to consult with the sector and keep actions eligible for the cap under review.  

    Support for farmers   

    Today’s SFI announcement follows on from a major package of support for farmers and growers unveiled at the Prime Minister’s Farm to Fork Summit in Downing Street. This includes a new Blueprint for Growing the UK Fruit and Vegetable Sector, setting out how industry and government can work together to increase domestic production and drive investment into this valuable sector which is worth more than £4 billion to the UK economy.   

  We also published the first UK Food Security Index to ensure the government and sector is resilient to unexpected shocks to the market and extreme weather.

   The government has committed to maintaining the £2.4 billion annual farming budget which will support farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably, while protecting nature and helping to meet our net zero ambitions. Our new schemes offer something for every type of farm, and a crucial part of their development has been to listen to farmers’ feedback.   

Further information    



  • The SFI scheme pays farmers to adopt and maintain sustainable farming practices that:     
  • recognise the importance of food production;     
  • protect and enhance the natural environment and support farm productivity and resilience 
  • It does this while giving participants maximum flexibility as to how they achieve action objectives and taking an ‘advise and prevent’ approach to regulation and inspection that offers farmers help and support rather than penalising them for mistakes.    
  • From July, farmers and land managers will be able to access options currently available in Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier (CS MT), actions from the SFI offer, plus new actions announced at the Oxford Farming Conference all through one scheme – which to keep it simple will be called the Sustainable Farming Incentive.  
  • Bringing the schemes into one place, with one name, means farmers can access the best of both offers, the flexibility of the SFI with the breadth, scale and ambition of CS MT, just with less paperwork.  


CS Higher Tier     

  • This summer, we will publish CS Higher Tier information setting out who is eligible, how to apply and request specialist advice for Higher Tier actions alongside details of each Higher Tier action available to apply for     
  • If farmers are eligible to apply for CS Higher Tier actions, they will need specialist advice before they start their application, which they will normally get through Natural England or Forestry Commission. They may need additional advice from Historic England or the Environment Agency, depending on the actions they want to do.    
  • Later this summer, farmers will be able to start working with Natural England or Forestry Commission to prepare an application. This includes any feasibility studies or plans they may need to complete.     
  • Eligible farmers will be able to submit your online application for CS Higher Tier in the Rural Payments service this winter, with the first agreements starting from early 2025. Applications will then stay open throughout the year, so you can choose when to apply. Agreements will normally start the month after your application is approved.    


Controlled Roll Out    

  • Expressions of interest have now opened for those wishing to apply through the controlled roll out, ahead of the offer being fully self service in July.   
  • The RPA will invite a mix of customers into the controlled roll out at the end of this month to fully test the service and gather representative feedback.   
  • If you would like to be one of the first farmers to access the expanded SFI offer, you can complete a short expression of interest on the RPA website Qualtrics Survey | Qualtrics Experience Management
  • We will then choose a select number of individuals to test the service and submit an application before we open the new offer to the wider sector.    
  • Applications will open to the wider sector, based on eligibility, on 22 July.    


Find Funding for land or Farms Digital Tool     



SFI Cap   



  • IGL1 - Take improved grassland field corners or blocks out of management    
  • IGL2 - Winter bird food on improved grassland -    
  • AHL1 - Pollen and nectar flower mix     
  • AHL2 - Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land    
  • AHL3 - Grassy field corners and blocks    
  • IPM2 - Flower-rich grass margins, blocks, or in-field strips.    


  • We’re applying the 25% rule to 4 of the actions in the expanded offer, because they’re similar in nature to the 6 above. They are:     


  • WBD3 - in-field grass strips     
  • AHW9 - unharvested cereal headland     
  • AHW1 - bumblebird mix    
  • AHW11 - cultivated areas for arable plants    

   New SFI applicants will only be able to put up to 25% of the total agricultural area of their farm into a combination of one or more of these 10 actions.