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SFI 2024 update

I hope you all had a good bank holiday weekend. From following the county championship cricket scores, it seems it was a bit of a mixed bag with respect to the weather around the country. However, it did give me some time to look at al 102 SFI 2024 options but rather than in a hammock with a zesty drink, I was sat around the kitchen table with a mug of hot chocolate.

 
 

First of all, and something we have already covered, similarly to SFI 2023, there will be a controlled rollout of the new offer and if you are interested in taking part in this process you can apply here to do that. Alternatively, you can wait until all the kinks have been ironed out and from the end of July, the expanded SFI 2024 actions will be open to all farmers.


So, where to begin and with 102 options it can seem quite daunting. To help us, Defra have published a searchable database which covers each item in terms of payment, where it can be placed, and the requirements that must be completed for each. It is expected that at some point further guidance will be published, but this will be guidance and not compulsory actions.


From looking at the database you will see that the codes for the SFI options have changed, no longer is it IPM1 but CIPM1, and HRW2 is replaced by CHRW2. You get the idea, and I am sure there is a logical explanation!


More importantly note that some of the requirements within the options have changed between SFI 2023 and SFI 2024, so if you are currently completing an application for SFI 2023, have a look at both sets of options and see which works best for you.


For example:


  1. Under SFI 2023 the herbal leys option can be rotational. However, if establishing a new ley in SFI 2024, the ley MUST be static for the 3-year agreement. The seed mixture MUST be a minimum of 1 grass, 2 legumes and 2 herbs and there is a limit of 40kg of N /ha/annum where previously there was no mention of fertiliser limitations.

  2. The same goes for legume fallow, flower rich grass plots, pollen, and nectar mix - with new establishment being static. Whilst being a sensible adjustment from an environmental perspective it does remove the ability to use these options rotationally as a one-year break crop.

  3. Further clarification has been made on the multi-species winter cover crop option, with the new rules specifying that “you must establish a multi-species cover crop on land entered into this action which will not be harvested as a ‘cash crop’” - This puts a line through claiming for beans growing with wheat that will be sprayed off in the spring.

  4. Under SFI 2023, six actions were limited to 25% of your total agricultural area. Under SFI 2024 the list of options limited to 25% of total agricultural area has been expanded to ten, with a further four actions likely to be added soon.

  5. With the no insecticide option, the guidance is now clearer, removing confusion between start dates and cropping dates, stating “if you are already growing an arable crop on the land entered into this action when the action starts, you must do this action on a crop that’s sown within 12 months of the actions start date and you must do this action on one “cash crop” from when it’s sown until it’s harvested.

  6. One addition to look out for, HEF1, has moved over from countryside stewardship and can provide some useful income for the maintenance of weatherproof traditional farm buildings, at £5/m2 annually.


One final thought on SFI: if you have an agreement in place, make sure you have a copy of the relevant guidance that was in place when your agreement started. We have copies of the SFI Handbook for the SFI 2023 offer  and SFI Handbook updates for the SFI 2023 offer here if you need them.


A couple of other points:


  1. We are pleased to be able to answer positively a question we are asked regularly, the expanded SFI 2024 actions are available to all farmers, including new entrants who haven’t claimed BPS before.

  2. There is a bit of news around how to leave a Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreement to join SFI – it is expected that farmers will be able opt to leave CS from September with the anticipation that the CS agreement will end at the end of 2024.


The prorogation of parliament on 24th May means that we will get no further information out of Defra until after the election on 4th July and then with the parliamentary summer recess starting late July we could be waiting until the autumn for any further updates. As ever though when we know we will let you know.

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