Previously DEFRA suggested there would be an additional round of Mid-Tier applications in 2024, this has now been confirmed.
DEFRA intend to amalgamate the Mid-Tier and SFI application process offering a single hybrid agreement to encourage synergies between schemes, this will be available from summer 2024 following which all applications for SFI, Mid and Higher Tier Stewardship will be open all year round without the structured deadlines previously imposed.
Furthermore, from summer 2024 there will be 50 new options (themes include agroforestry, precision farming, water and moorland) and payment rates are to increase again by an average of 10%. The following headline option payments are expected to be announced in due course:
- AB1 Establishing and Maintaining a Nectar Flower Mix £614/ha to £739/ha
- AB8 Establishing and Maintaining Flower Rich Margins and Plots £673/ha to £798/ha
- AB9 Establishing and Maintaining Winter Bird Mix £732/ha to £853/ha
- AB16 Autumn Sown Bumble Bird Mix £637/ha to £747/ha
- SW3 In-Field Grass Strips £658/ha to £765/ha
- BE3 Management of Hedgerows £10/100m to £13/100m
- GS3 Using Ryegrass Seed-Set as Winter Food for Birds £474/ha to £515/ha
- GS6 Managing Species-Rich Grassland £182/ha to £646/ha
DEFRA have also acknowledged that projects which deliver the most desired environmental outcomes should achieve premium payments above and beyond the “income forgone” methodology (Agricultural Transition Plan update January 2024 - GOV.UK see Annex 4). These payments are to be paid per hectare for the actions that are perceived to have the biggest environmental impact. There will also be a “re-balancing” of creation / maintenance payments focusing on grassland habitats, this will address the substantial upfront costs associated with creating certain habitats by offering a year 1 capital payment.
While the above is a positive step for SFI, it is most assuring to read an announcement that cites the UK Governments food security targets. Over the coming years DEFRA’s underpinning ambition to have 70% of farmers engage with agri-environment by 2028 could negatively impact domestic production however if applied correctly SFI can improve the resilience of our agricultural sector.
Mandatory comment on BPS
Hopefully all BPS claimants will have received their delinked payment statement, it is essential these are reviewed and confirmed to be correct by 29th February 2024 in order to query any mistakes. The delinked payment transfer period will open from 15th February 2024 to 10th May 2024, professionals who have undertaken agency work between 2020 and 2022 should consider the wording of the sale contract and ultimately decide which party is entitled to the delinked payment.
The delinked payment rates for 2024 are paid based on your reference amount and discounted as follows:
Percentage reduction for 2024
£30,000.00 or less
Amounts above £30,000.00 and no more than £50,000.00
Amounts above £50,000.00 and no more than £150,000.00
Payments will be made in two instalments each year (2024 – 2027), c.50% from 1 August with the balance payable from 1 December. The 2025 - 2027 discount rates have not been released.