Defra has introduced an expanded Sustainable Finance Incentive (‘SFI’) offer – this follows the Farm to Fork Summit, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a package of support for farmers. He also committed to making temporary adjustments for some of the agri-environment scheme options, to address some of the effects of the prolonged wet weather.

The Defra offer, announced in May, brings with it a total of 102 ‘actions’ – or options available to farmers. Of these, 22 were already available and 23 are new. The remaining 57 are improved versions of actions previously offered through the Countryside Stewardship (‘CS’) Mid-Tier scheme, which enabled the use of CS actions on a shorter three-year term to benefit those on short-term tenancies. It should be noted that there are some five-year duration actions, mostly focusing on management of waterbodies and heritage areas.

Among the new actions, farmers are offered payments for precision farming, options for flood and water management, agroforestry, no-till farming and greater options for moorland management.

The new arrangements also include a new offer of endorsed actions, to allow for the use of CS Higher Tier options under SFI. A further 15 actions will be released later this year, including payments for educational access.

The expanded offer also allows those who did not historically apply for the Basic Payment Scheme to now be eligible to apply for the SFI. Farmers on commons will also be able to apply later in the year.

A tightening of land management prescriptions

As part of the new expanded offer, some actions currently under the 2023 SFI have been reviewed with a tightening on prescriptions. For example, if applicants are to apply for the Herbal Leys action under the new 2024 expanded offer, this will now be subject to a nitrogen fertiliser restriction.

Actions under the 2023 SFI offer were rotational, and therefore useful as a brake crop in arable rotations. However, under the 2024 SFI offer for Legume Fallow (CNUM3), this has become a static option, so you won’t have the ability to ‘move it around’ once you have nominated the field.

Existing SFI agreement holders

Current agreement holders are now eligible to apply for an additional SFI agreement, provided the new agreement is compatible with actions already applied for, to ensure claimants are not paid twice for the same action.

Existing CS Mid-Tier and HLS agreement holders

From September, those within a CS Mid-Tier or Higher-Level Stewardship agreement will be able to end their agreement early to apply for the SFI.

Existing agreements will be eligible to terminate either at the end of their current agreement year and still receive their full annual payment, or before the end of the year and receive a proportion of the annual payment.

The expanded SFI offer can also run alongside your existing CS agreement if the actions are compatible, and you are not being double-funded.

Existing Higher-Tier agreement holders

Those under a Higher Tier Agreement will be expected to complete their existing agreement and will only be able to end their existing agreement by exception.


Initially the expanded SFI offer is open for expressions of interest and there will be a controlled rollout through June and July. It is expected that the service will be fully open online for applications by 22 July 2024. In the meantime, the current SFI 2023 offer can still be applied for online.

The 25% cap will continue as with the current 2023 offer rules and four more of the expanded SFI actions will be added to the cap including WBD3 – In-field grass strips, and AHW1 – Bumblebird Mix.

Defra has made alterations to some of the above provisions and is likely to do so again so please check with your advisers on any recent changes.

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