Countryside Stewardship 2017 is open for applications. Despite some earlier negative press about the scheme, Countryside Stewardship is an opportunity that could benefit a significant number of farmers, so is well worth detailed consideration.
The scheme rewards farmers for meeting local environmental objectives. Unlike Entry Level Stewardship, where the maximum payment per hectare was £30, in Countryside Stewardship, an agreement holder is paid for what they actually do. In addition, the scheme does not have to be applied across the whole farm, which offers considerable flexibility.
There are options within the scheme that offer agronomic benefits to farmers, particularly those who are struggling with resistance in black grass and seeking cultural control methods to prevent the weed burden from affecting yields. Using buffer strips of varying widths can help to protect agrochemical residues from entering watercourses, which ultimately protects them from scrutiny by the water industry in relation to the provision of clean and drinking water.
“We submitted an application in 2016 for our 250-ha arable farm in Lincolnshire, which included buffering of watercourses, management of hedgerows and some arable options to encourage wild birds and pollinators (AB1 and AB9) on less productive land. We were able to meet the local objectives even though at first sight we do not have a lot of ‘environmental’ interest. We have secured an agreement that will contribute quite a bit to farm income over the next five years.” Mrs Chris Black, Susworth, Lincolnshire
Natural England is keen for farmers to apply for Countryside Stewardship in 2017 and is providing support to help applicants to complete their applications.
Events are being held around the country to raise awareness of the scheme and to help land managers to understand how to submit an application. As well as these popular events, potential applicants can access two free one-to-one sessions with a specialist consultant to help them to make a high-quality application.
The booking line for events and the advice sessions is 08453 713399 or email email@example.com. To request an application pack for Countryside Stewardship, contact Natural England on 0208 026 1089.
The government has confirmed that it will guarantee funding for Countryside Stewardship grants if these are agreed and signed before the UK’s departure from the EU. A successful application to the scheme in 2017 would result in an agreement that would start on 1 January 2018. Countryside Stewardship mid-tier agreements are for five years.
Despite criticisms of the scheme, there is a lot to be said for engaging with the devil you know rather than the one you do not.
To find out how your clients could benefit from Countryside Stewardship, please contact Fiona Tweedie on 0113 390 0012 or 07766 44 1934 (firstname.lastname@example.org).