The Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme covers a range of schemes – mid-tier stewardship, streamlined wildlife offers, higher-tier stewardship and capital item applications to support boundaries and hedgerow improvements, water quality and air quality improvements.
In addition there are also woodland creation, maintenance and management grants available.
Mid-tier stewardship offers a number of arable, mixed farming and grassland multi-year options on a similar basis to past years.
These can be supplemented by options for capital grants to support a range of field boundary improvements.
Depending on the location of the farm and whether it is in high priority area for water quality, capital grants can also be applied for to help prevent nitrates and pesticides leaching into watercourses.
The grants pay for equipment which can help improve water quality, such as paying towards water storage tanks, renewing concrete yards where run-off would occur, covering yards used for cattle handling, silage and manure storage, sprayer washdown sheds, bunds and biofilters.
Farmers should request an application pack online by June 30, 2021 (earlier if in writing), and have submitted the application by July 30, 2021.
Wildlife offers is a streamlined option to apply for a set package of multi-year options depending on the type of enterprise and location, such as arable or mixed, lowland or upland.
This is on the same deadline timescales as mid-tier.
As before, higher-tier stewardship applications are open in areas targeted for higher tier stewardship options.
While many of the multi-year options and capital items are the same as for mid-tier, there are some additional habitat creation and management features which just apply to higher-tier applicants.
Application packs must be requested by March 31, 2021, and applications need to be submitted by April 30, 2021.
For those already in mid- or higher-tier arrangements, or those who just want to look at capital items, there is an option to apply under the CS capital items grant.
Applications need to be in by April 30 and some items may require approval from a catchment sensitive farming officer.
Woodland creation grants can be applied for as standalone grants all year round or as part of a higher-tier application, along with woodland management options.
Where farmers may be thinking of planting woodlands on their farm, this provides grant funding towards the planting and protection of the trees and some of the woodland infrastructure.
In terms of other grant funding possibilities for farm productivity improvement, or to support rural diversification projects, the last round of the EU-funded rural development grants closed last year.
Guidance from the Government on what any future grant schemes will support, what level of funding will be available, and on what basis is due to be published shortly.
There are a number of Government and private charitable grants available to support community projects in rural areas, large-scale environmental and energy projects, and business continuity and resilience.
A new £10 million fund to drive private sector investment in nature was launched by the Government last month and aims to support community groups or the private business sector with up to £100,000 grants to help them develop nature projects to a point where they can attract private investment.
This can include large-scale habitat renewal schemes on farmland, as one example.
The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) has launched a new funding round to improve rural business productivity and associated challenges.
These offer £15,000 grants to projects looking at technologies that improve agricultural productivity. The projects must, however, be run in collaboration with a UK Higher Education Institution.