Applications are now open for the Countryside Stewardship mid-tier and hedgerow and boundary scheme.
Robson and Liddle’s James Pyrah sheds some light on potential benefits for farmers.
A New Year bonus for farmers arrived when the mid-tier Stewardship Scheme and the Hedgerow and Boundary Capital Grant Scheme both re-opened on January 15, 2018 – somewhat earlier than in previous years.
Mid-tier Stewardship scheme
This scheme now features new Countryside Stewardship (CS) Offers for Wildlife which include generous options for arable farms, upland farmers, a lowland grazing offer and a mixed farming offer.
This will be of particular interest to farmers who have emerged from entry level stewardship and are not presently in an environmental agreement.
In a departure from conventional mid-tier applications, CS Offers for Wildlife are not competitive and come with what officials say is a simpler application process.
Fresh options for wildlife habitat improvements
The four new CS Offers for Wildlife are designed to enable farmers to improve the wildlife on their farm by providing year-round habitats and encouraging pollinators to thrive.
The offers will help farmers to decide on the most appropriate options for their land and aim to deliver sufficient environmental benefits to remove the need for scoring.
This means an agreement offer will normally be made provided, of course, the application meets the criteria.
It is important to note, though, that none of the options comprising the four new CS Offers for Wildlife can overlap with Ecological Focus Area (EFA) land that already attracts double funding.
Extra scope for Water Capital grants
Dealing with wetter weather is a challenge for many farmers and the mid-tier Stewardship scheme additionally includes Water Capital grants to improve water quality.
Among these are grants for covering over livestock gathering areas and middens, concreting yards, resurfacing gateways and livestock tracks.
Water capital grants are awarded at standard rates to a maximum of £10,000 and the first step is to contact your local Natural England Catchment Sensitive Farming officer whose recommendation is required for the grant.
The latest date you can request an application pack from Natural England and ask for a visit from one of their officers is 31st May with a deadline for submissions of the July 31, 2018.
Hedgerows and Boundaries capital grants scheme
This standalone capital grant is also available under the Countryside Stewardship programme.
Farmers and other land managers can apply for the grant in order to help restore current farm boundaries in a way that delivers environmental and landscape benefits.
Maximum grant is doubled
Payment rates are the same as last year although the maximum grant has been doubled from £5,000 to £10,000.
This is of most interest to farmers who are not in any stewardship schemes and who are not able to qualify for the mid-tier scheme.
The Hedgerows and Boundaries capital grants scheme has a deadline of April 30, 2018 and details can be found in the Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant Manual.