Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot Scheme – an update from Ryecroft Glenton’s Agricultural and Landed Estates Team

The Sustainable Farming Incentive Scheme pilot applications are now open for farmers to help make sure the scheme works in practice.  Ryecroft Glenton’s Agricultural and Landed Estates Team are urging eligible farmers to consider participation in the pilot, not least because this offers a source of additional income, but also because it ensures working farmers will have some input as to how the scheme will operate when it goes live.

Farmers will implement the pilot version of the scheme on their farms, take part in learning activities based on their experiences and provide feedback on what is working and what is not. 


To be eligible for the scheme you must be:

  • An eligible Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applicant in 2020 or 2021.
  • Registered on the Rural Payments service.

Farmers will be able to enter land that:

  • Does not have an existing agri-environment agreement on it (for example if you have a field in Countryside Stewardship, it will not be eligible for the pilot).
  • Is in England.
  • Is not common land or used for shared grazing.
  • Is owner occupied, where you are farming the land yourself or employing a contractor, or are a tenant with a Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 or an Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 tenancy

Farmers have until 30 September 2021 to submit their applications and if they are successful, they will be offered a pilot agreement. The agreement will set out details of what you are undertaking to do and what you’ll be paid in return.


The scheme has a number of standards which are land management actions. Overall, the standards are designed to help farmers create greener landscapes and improve biodiversity, promote cleaner air and water and guard against environmental risks such as climate change and flooding.

Farmers will be able to choose standards that match the types of land on their farm, for example grassland, hedgerows, water bodies or woodland.

Initially, there are eight standards in the pilot:

  • arable and horticultural land
  • arable and horticultural soils
  • farm woodland
  • hedgerows
  • improved grassland
  • improved grassland soils
  • low and no input grassland
  • water body buffering

Ambition Levels

Most of the standards above will have three ambition levels that you can choose from being introductory, intermediate, and advanced. Each ambition level has a list of actions which you must meet in order to comply with the pilot scheme.

In some cases, there will be an option to select more than one standard for the same area of land. For example, a farmer could apply the arable land and arable soils standard to the same area of land and select the hedgerows standard for hedges around it.

Additionally, farmers will be able to select a different ambition level for each standard in their agreement. For example, you could choose to do the intermediate hedgerows standard and introductory water body buffering standard.

The pilot agreement will also allow farmers to change ambition levels and to add or remove standards.

Payment for Standards

A monthly payment will be made once the agreement starts. Agreements will start from November 2021 at the earliest, with the first payments following one month later.

The payment rates for each standard and ambition level for this pilot are as follows:

Arable and horticultural: land£28/hectare (ha)£54/ha£74/ha
Arable and horticultural: soils£26/ha£41/ha£60/ha
Farm woodland£49/ha
Hedgerows£16/100 metre (m)£21/100m£24/100m
Improved grassland£27/ha£62/ha£97/ha
Improved grassland: soils£26/ha£44/ha£70/ha
Low and no input grassland£22/ha£89/ha£110/ha
Water body buffering£16/100m£29/100m£34/100m

Some standards have additional actions with extra payment and a flat rate of £5,000 will be paid per year for taking part in learning activities.

Please do get in touch with the Agricultural and Landed Estates team if you have any questions or require any assistance or advice surrounding this pilot scheme.

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