With a large proportion of Cumbria in some form of Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier (CSS) priority area, now is the time that farmers should look to maximise the opportunities the CSS scheme presents to improve infrastructure on farm and also make a significant contribution to their annual revenue. Even farmers who are in existing traditional schemes should not automatically assume they will not qualify, often this is not the case.
The window for applications is now open and runs until the end of July, but the relevant pack must be obtained before the end of June. Do not be put off if you have downloaded the pack, spoken to the local catchment sensitive farming officer, then your day job has taken over your time. If you are not in a scheme to put it rather bluntly you should be as you are missing out on funding for things you will most likely do anyway.
It is key to maximise the full potential of the scheme and not miss out on opportunities by looking for the cheapest option at the application stage. Seeking the advice of a specialist in Agri environmental schemes will be key to the success of your application.
Andrew comments “With hundreds of options available, putting together a scheme for the first time might seem a significant task. I have been involved in over 40 applications every year since the scheme began, all of which have provided considerable value to the farmers involved. Many have completed, concreting, walling, fencing, and roofing works under capital payments and received significant annual payments over the course of the period. Putting together a good scheme is not simple and taking time to get it right is critical to the end value.”
The difference between a good scheme and a bad one can be significant and will cost you thousands in lost revenue over the course of the five-year period. You cannot go back in a years time – you only get one chance. Many options can be co-located with others or have supplements complementary to the core land use. By combining these you increase the payment per hectare and enhance the overall value of the scheme. This is the case for both revenue and capital options so taking both advice and time a now will indeed be money well spent.
For those put off by previous schemes which locked up your whole farm and limited your farming activity, do not worry, the current CSS is different and you are only paid on the option areas put into the scheme which leaves other land free from restrictions. This offers significant flexibility and once again the more skilled exponents of the application stage will match any scheme to your farming system so that it all works hand in hand. It is even possible to fit a scheme to land such as intensive Dairy farms if well designed.
We urge any farmers who do not have a current scheme or have a historic scheme coming to an end, to consider your options, and do not miss out!