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Defra announcement on Environmental Land Management schemes

On 21st May, 2024, Defra announced the roll out dates for its Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme. 

SFI gives farmers a choice of actions that reward and support sustainable food production while protecting and enhancing nature. SFI currently offers 23 actions to choose from across 8 areas including soil health, moorlands, hedgerows, pest and nutrient management, wildlife, buffer strips and managing grasslands.

More details of this announcement can be found here.


The expanded and improved SFI scheme is to be merged with Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship and will be available from July.

  • Containing some new options, it should be easier for more farmers to apply.
  • SFI will be open to new entrants.
  • Option lengths have been shortened in some cases to be more workable for tenants. It is also designed to work for upland farmers.
  • A controlled roll out is open for interested farmers/landowners before the self-service applications open in July. Expressions of interest must be submitted.
  • Educational Access is to be included but currently the only mention is: “We are developing even more actions and features to be added to the expanded SFI offer later this year, including an educational access action announced in January’s Agricultural Transition Plan update.” More on this below.


Further information

  • Applications for new Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship will open in winter and be open through 2025. The first agreements will start from January. Specialist advice will still be required before applying.
  • A new Find Funding for Land or Farms digital tool has been launched.
  • Educational Access

DEFRA is stating that Educational Access (ED1) will be available as an action in SFI ‘later this year'. As the forms for SFI and Mid Tier have already been combined we hope this will be straightforward and that it will pave the way for more farmers and growers to take up the option, enabling them to support our work by becoming hosts.

At The Country Trust, we are continuously pushing for change at a national level to make farm and food education a 'public good' and have been in regular discussion with Defra for about three years. As a result of our work, ED1 payments were added to Mid-Tier CS in summer 2022. Following this success, SFI was announced but without an Ed Access option. We continued to push for its inclusion and we are delighted that ED1 will be added into the revised SFI scheme in the coming months.

However, until we have full confirmation of this update (and in light of the upcoming volatile political landscape), we will continue to bang the ED1 drum, ensuring that Defra and the RPA make Educational Access available to as many farmers and growers as possible in any new grant schemes.

For farmers in Mid and Higher Tier CS schemes, they can, as far as we know, still add ED1 to their existing schemes if they want to start education visits and meet the criteria. They need to apply direct to the RPA. If you are experiencing issues with adding ED1 to your mid-tier application, please contact us: info@countrytrust.org.uk.