2,000 farmers apply to take part in post-Brexit pilot

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is one of the first post-Brexit farming schemes to be piloted
The Sustainable Farming Incentive is one of the first post-Brexit farming schemes to be piloted

More than 2,000 farmers have responded to the government's call for applicants to take part in the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot due to start in October.

The SFI is the next step in the the government's post-Brexit plan to reward farmers for sustainable farming practices that enhance the environment.

It is one of three new schemes that will help to deliver on the UK's carbon net zero targets, with an aim for a full roll out from 2024.

According to Defra, a total of 2,178 farmers across England responded to the expressions of interest that opened in March.

Successful candidates will be contacted by the end of May and will be asked to develop their applications from June, leading to the first pilots going live from October.

Defra said interest came from a diverse range of farms and regions in England, which will 'ensure good nationwide coverage' when the pilot is implemented.

The department is working with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to deliver the pilot, which will gather ongoing information from different farming sectors.

Participants will take part in a range of activities, providing feedback on their experience of all aspects of the pilot.

In the first phase of the pilot, farmers will be able to select from an initial set of eight standards to build their own agreements.

The standards will promote cleaner air and water, and guard against environmental risks such as climate change and flooding.

Within each standard there are three levels for participants to choose from – Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced.

Each level is more challenging, and more rewarding, than the previous level and delivers greater environmental benefits.

Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis welcomed the response so far: “It is great to see so many farmers wanting to get involved in the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot scheme.

"We want to design our future policies in conjunction with farmers across England to ensure that they are as straightforward and effective as possible.

“We want farmers to manage their businesses in a way that achieves profitable food production and the recovery of nature."

The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the first of the UK's three new environmental schemes to be piloted and co-designed.

The government says further information on the other two schemes, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery, will be shared later this year.