Miscanthus growers can take advantage of the inclusion of permanent crops in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme. Applications for this opportunity became available in September 2023, with payments anticipated to commence later in the current year.
In June DEFRA announced 23 on-farm SFI ‘Actions’ that farmers can get involved in. Most of these actions are already Countryside Stewardship Scheme options, with a handful of new ones introduced. However, the devil is in the details for payments relating to Miscanthus.
Miscanthus growers will be eligible for anything from £5.80/ha up to £673/ha, with additional annual payments available for whole farm Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and nutrition management plans.
The devil is in the details
According to Rob Meadley, agricultural business consultant at Brown and Co, payments will be based on the Rural Payments Agency’s (RPA) land mapping system. “It appears that some actions associated with Miscanthus crops will only be eligible for SFI payments if the whole field falls under the ‘permanent crops’ land cover category within the RPA land mapping system.
“If a part field also falls in the ‘arable’ or ‘permanent grassland’ category for example, this will impact the actions that Miscanthus farmers can claim for,” explains Rob.
“We are still waiting for more clarity from DEFRA on SFI payments, but it’s clear that farmers need to determine whether the land cover matches the action they want to take,” he says.
The following payments are applicable to Miscanthus crops on the ‘permanent crops’ land cover category.
The range of actions for permanent crop land cover, include:
• £673/ha for flower-rich grass margins or in-field strips (IPM2)
• £45/ha for no use of insecticide on arable crops and permanent crops (IPM4)
• £5.80/ha to assess soil, test soil organic matter and produce a soil management plan, with an additional £95 available ‘per agreement’ (SAM1)
“This announcement has made the SFI a little easier and more beneficial for Miscanthus, and the no insecticide requirement is straightforward for the crop. However, if the Miscanthus is a ‘part’ of a field and the applicant only wants to do IPM4 on the Miscanthus – the application must be for the whole field area,” says Rob.
In addition to the above, there are also some actions eligible for permanent crops paid per year, but the whole farm must be under this category:
• £989 per year to assess Integrated Pest Management and produce a plan – guidelines indicate this is applicable to whole farms under the permanent crops category. (IPM1)
• £589 per year to assess nutrient management and produce a review report – guidelines indicate this is applicable to whole farms under the permanent crops category. (NUM1)
From September 18th, Defra began accepting initial applications in a “controlled way” and the SFI payments will be made quarterly.
Terravesta can advise on Miscanthus payments only, and for more information on general SFI payments read the handbook. To contact Rob Meadley at Brown & Co, please email Robert.Meadley@brown-co.com, or to speak to the Terravesta team, email email@example.com.