19 Sep 2023
by Oli Hill, Andrew Pearson

AIC’s Test and Trials Report published as SFI window opens for applications


A major Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) report produced for the Government to help inform the design of the ELM scheme has been published online.

The report's release coincides with the opening of the latest application window for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) 2023 for farmers on 18 September.

The SFI pays farmers for taking actions that support food production, farm productivity and resilience while protecting and enhancing the environment.

There are 23 actions on offer under the 2023 scheme, including on soil health, moorland, hedgerows, integrated pest management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips, and low-input grassland.

Value of advice

Originally produced for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2021 and 2022 to complement AIC's involvement in working groups and engagement with stakeholders, the "Value of Animal, Crop Nutrition and Agronomy Advisers - Test & Trials Report" demonstrates how AIC helped inform major developments on agricultural and environmental policy.

Earlier this year Defra revealed that farmers could receive top payments for taking BASIS and FACTS advice for nutrient management and IPM respectively as part of the SFI 2023 scheme.

Andrew Pearson, AIC's Environmental Policy Manager, said: "We welcome this move on SFI from the Government, which is the product of a number of years of input from AIC and other industry stakeholders.

"It is particularly welcome that by taking BASIS-qualified advice on IPM, farmers will get almost £3,000 over the course of their three-year SFI agreement.

"Meanwhile, taking FACTS-qualified advice on nutrition management will qualify farmers for a payment of almost £600 a year."

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How AIC's report shaped policy

There are more areas where Defra has acknowledged the importance of AIC's report in informing its policy decisions, including highlighting a number of elements around how advice and guidance policy is being shaped.

In Defra's Test and Trials Report in December 2022 [PDF], the department said: "The findings from Tests and Trials continue to support policy development around advice needed to support farmers in engaging with future schemes. They are informing the development of current areas of policy interest and reinforce evidence from other sources.

"The evidence continues to highlight the value placed on established, trusted relationships between farmers and their advisers. It is recognised by policymakers that it is important to farmers that they have a choice in the advisers they wish to work with and that many have long-standing and trusted relationships, which will be considered during policy development.

"Evidence highlighting the importance of advisers having the right set of skills will support the development of approaches to training and quality assurance, including opportunities for the existing adviser workforce to develop their skills.”

The new standards will see farmers paid £989/year to take BASIS-qualified advice on IPM, which is the top payment of the newly-released standards available under the 2023 scheme.

Getting a nutrient management assessment and report from a FACTS-qualified advisor will qualify farmers for £589/year under the agreement.

SFI 2023 Launch 

From yesterday (18 September) farmers who have expressed interest in the SFI 2023 scheme will begin to be invited to make applications as part of a controlled roll-out of the scheme as announced by Defra last month.

In support of this, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has released a short instructional video demonstrating how to use the online application service once a farmer has been invited to make an application. Watch the video below.

On Back British Farming Day (13 September) the Government announced that farmers who have a live SFI 2023 agreement before the end of the year will receive an accelerated payment - worth 25% of the annual value of their agreement - in the first month of their agreement, helping with cashflow and ensuring SFI works for farm businesses.



Oli Hill

Oli Hill

Communications Manager, AIC

As Communications Manager, Oli creates and oversees the content published on AIC's website, emails, Member briefings, print publications, and social media.

A qualified multimedia journalist, he previously spent six years working at Farmers Weekly magazine as a Senior Reporter on the arable team, and latterly as Community Editor. More recently he was Communications Manager at Red Tractor.

[email protected]
01733 385230

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Andrew Pearson

Andrew Pearson

Policy Manager, AIC

[email protected]
07464 540421

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