While there was once a wide spectrum of funding available, the introduction of the Agriculture Bill signalled the grant changes set to come into force once we leave the EU.
Farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers looking to make environmental improvements may find the government’s Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme beneficial, especially in helping bridge the funding gap once basic payments start to decrease. Tomos Davies looks at what is on offer.
What is the Countryside Stewardship scheme?
The Countryside Stewardship scheme is a government initiative which provides long-term financial incentives to look after the environment, notably for those who deliver environmental benefits on their land including wildlife habitats, pollinator plots and increased biodiversity.
With a move towards delivering sustainable farming, the CS programme comprises nine grants including:
- Hedgerow and boundaries grant
- Mid Tier
- 4 wildlife offers (Upland, mixed, lowland and arable)
- Woodland creation
- Woodland management plan
- Woodland improvement grant
The new CS scheme is flexible, with no set minimum or maximum areas of land required for mid-tier applications, meaning a case-by-case approach can be made for each landowner, who is able to decide which parts of their land go into an agreement.
This flexibility ensures farmers are able to retain control by holding certain areas of land back for other business needs.
Bridging funding gaps
These new agreements will commence on the 1st January 2020 and will each last five years, guaranteeing a secure income stream for the foreseeable future, so is an attractive grant option for farmers, given the current economic uncertainty.
Furthermore, with basic payments set to drop from 2021 and gradually phase out until 2027, and with the government’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) not likely to start until 2023/2024, Countryside Stewardship could help bridge this funding gap for farmers until 2025.
With the scheme delivering grant funding to help finance a wide range of projects, its benefits should not be underestimated.
The application window for both standard and streamlined mid-tier agreements is closing on the 31st July 2019, and given evidence will need to be gathered and approvals and endorsements requested to support your application, it’s imperative to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.