Following the draft standards published by DEFRA during 2021 plus feedback from farmers and landowners, DEFRA have now published an updated roadmap for 2022 of the following three environmental standards:
• The Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard
• The Grassland Soils Standard
• Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard
All three environmental standards will be launched in Spring 2023 together with the Animal Health and Welfare Review. Payments will be expected in 2022.
These three standards will be available at two ambition levels:
DEFRA anticipate that they will introduce an Advanced Level after the initial launch, most likely in 2023.
• Farmers who are eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme will also be eligible for the SFI.
• Applicants will be able to choose which field parcels they wish to enter into the SFI and they do not have to include the whole farm in their agreement. Each year applicants will be able to add more field parcels and standards to their SFI agreements.
• Farmers will be able to apply different ambition levels to each field parcel on their holding, instead of applying the same ambition over the whole.
• Agreement lengths will be for 3 years instead of 5 years.
• There will be greater flexibility for tenant farmers, particularly if they only have 2 years left on their tenancy; they will still be able to enter into the SFI agreement.
• DEFRA are hoping to offer a more supportive approach towards checks and application breaches and penalties.
• In the case of exceptional circumstances where applicants lose management control of their land, applicants will be able to exit their 3-year agreement early.
• Whilst the scheme is not yet available to Commons groups, DEFRA will continue to work with Commoners to best develop a detailed scheme and guidance for them.
• Once the SFI is launched in 2022, applicants will be able to have an SFI agreement on field parcels which are also entered into the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. However, DEFRA will not pay for the same action twice under both schemes and the actions will need to be compatible with the standards.
• Whilst previous schemes have been prescriptive and rigid in their guidance for farmers, the SFI aims to be more flexible and allow farmers to choose the right approach for them.
Specific Updates to the Arable and Horticultural Soils Standard
Following specific changes to the standard, applicants will be able to enter their land at either an introductory level or intermediate level.
• Introductory level payments will be at £22/hectare per year
• Intermediate level payments will be at £40/hectare per year
At both levels, farmers will need to undertake a soil organic matter test, prepare a soil plan and ensure that a winter cover is in place for at least 70% of the land included in the agreement. Each year farmers will need to ensure that organic matter is applied to one third of the land entered into the agreement. At the intermediate level only, farmers will need to ensure that a sown green cover crop is in place for the winter months on 20% of the area entered into that standard.
Applicants will be able to enter the land at either an introductory level or intermediate level.
• Introductory level payments will be at £28/hectare per year
• Intermediate level payments will be at £58/hectare per year
At both levels, the land entered under the standard will need to be tested for soil organic matter and farmers will need to prepare a soil management plan. Over the winter months the land entered under the standard must have at least a 95% green cover. At the intermediate level only, herbal leys will need to be established and 15% of the area entered under the standard will need to be maintained as such.
We will continue to update you as the guidance to accompany the updated standards is published by DEFRA and when further information is published on the different standards proposed to be launched in 2023, 2024 and 2025.
• Charlotte Pearson-Wood MRICS FAAV Partner
Telephone: 01892 509280 – email@example.com.
• Alex Wilks MRICS FAAV Partner
Telephone: 01798 877555 – firstname.lastname@example.org
• David Blake MRICS FAAV Partner
Telephone: 01444 412402 – email@example.com