Pressure is building on Natural England to come clean about what is causing the delays with Countryside Stewardship as it emerged many farmers who applied for the mid-tier scheme are still waiting to hear if they have been successful.
Paul Dennison, a farm business consultant and partner with Strutt and Parker, said only a handful of the applications submitted by his team in the Northallerton office had been confirmed as successful and called on Natural England to give a detailed explanation for the hold up as agreements were expected to start on January 1.
“Farmers and their advisors are getting increasingly concerned by the fact they are still in the dark about the status of their applications, particularly if it includes any spring cropping options”, he added.
“Anyone who needs to establish a nectar flower mix must get this drilled between March 15 and April 15, so farmers need to know quickly if they have been accepted to enable them to plan.
“If we know agreements are going to be offered in the next two or three weeks, people have time to get their plans in place. However, if it is going to take another six weeks, that is going to make life very difficult.”
Mr Dennison also raised concerns about confusing requests for extra information to support applications, saying Natural England had in some cases asked repeatedly for evidence or photographs which had already been supplied.
He added: “What is even more confusing is some requests are coming by letter, others by e-mail and some are going to clients, while others are coming to us. There seems to be no logic to it.”
A Natural England spokesperson said: “We have been issuing offers for 2017 agreements since December 2016 and are working hard to issue remaining offers as quickly as possible.”