Sustainable Farming Incentive – 2021 pilot

The imminent launch of the SFI pilot scheme has provided an idea of what some of the SFI will look like before it is rolled out to the wider farming community. The following information is applicable to the first year of the pilot and may differ in following years. Pilot schemes are for testing and so changes are expected by 2024. With a high number of our clients involved in this pilot we look forward to sharing what we learn as our clients experience the scheme. 

  • 3-year pilot will run for three years from October 2021 to late 2024. 
  • Pilot payment of up to £15,000 for taking part, paid monthly (£5,000 first year, further years subject to consultation). 
  • Up to £60,000 available for capital items – here
  • 8 standards – here 
  • Payments will be received monthly from November. 
  • Can choose to exit the pilot with reasonable notice or add more parcels to increase your claim. 
  • DEFRA require feedback in the form of interviews/questionnaires/webinars.  


There will initially be eight ‘standards’ in the first year with two more to follow, more are expected as the scheme progresses. The currently available standards are:

All except farm woodland will have a choice of ambition levels: introductory, intermediate, or advanced. These ambition levels represent increasing complexity of actions but also provide higher payments.

Payment rates

The following table shows the payment rates for each standard based on the chosen ambition level. These figures are the rates paid out for the pilot scheme and may change in subsequent years. As can be seen from the Improved grassland soils standard example above, there will be some additional payments if certain further actions are taken within a standard. 
Ambition levels can be agreed for each standard, the more complex actions receiving more money. It is possible to stack ‘standards’ onto the same parcel for example the arable land standard, arable soil standard, and hedgerows standard could each apply. As long as each standard is followed then three payments would apply to this parcel. See here for more details as to the pilot standards. 

Participation Feedback  

As part of the 3-year pilot, there will be certain activities to give feedback to DEFRA based on participants experiences of the scheme. A payment of up to £15,000 will be received for taking part in the pilot and providing feedback. This could include what participants think is going well/not working and how they think the scheme can be improved. It may involve:  

  • surveys  
  • questionnaires  
  • interviews  
  • webinars  
  • journals  

DEFRA suggest that 15 hours per month will be required. 

Capital Grants

There will be capital grants available to help achieve actions in the chosen standards. For the pilot, at least, this will be up to £60,000 with £20,000 per option group. See here for more details as to the pilot capital items.

Alasdair Squires

Alasdair Squires

01392 823935