As the world of farming subsidies in the UK enters a period of significant change, George Whittaker gives more information on options that might be available to you as the deadline for one of the last rounds of Countryside Stewardship applications approaches
What is Countryside Stewardship?
Countryside Stewardship (CS) is the current form of Agri-Environment subsidy scheme funded by “Pillar 2” of the Common Agricultural Policy. It can offer agreement holders options to achieve simple and effective environmental benefits in exchange for payment.
What is the future of CS as we leave the European Union?
CS will soon be superseded by its replacement – Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs). Nationwide pilots for these schemes will commence in 2021 with the full ELM scheme to start in 2024. The Rural Payments Agency will only offer Countryside Stewardship agreements until 2023.
Can I still apply for Countryside Stewardship?
Yes, Countryside Stewardship Schemes are still available to apply for. In their most common form, Mid-Tier Stewardship agreements can include both five-year, “management” style options and two-year capital items (such as concrete yards, stock fencing, hedgerow laying and tree planting) available. Four simplified “Wildlife Packages” are available on a non-competitive basis. These are Arable; Lowland grazing; Upland; and Mixed farming.
The list below is a small sample of the huge number of options offered through Mid-tier-
THE DEADLINE FOR THIS YEAR’S ROUND OF MID-TIER CS APPLICATIONS IS 31ST JULY 2020. APPLICANTS MUST REQUEST AN APPLICATION PACK BEFORE 31ST MAY 2020.
Will having a CS agreement stop my business from being part of an ELM pilot?
Entering into a new CS agreement will not exclude your business from securing a place on an ELM pilot from 2021, neither will it attract penalty when leaving your agreement to enter an ELM scheme when it is fully rolled out from 2024.
Should I apply for Countryside Stewardship?
My short-term advice to all farm and estate businesses in the current climate of uncertainty is to consider capitalising on the agri-environment funding options currently available whilst we find ourselves in a “golden age” of subsidies. Longer term, businesses should be assessing their reliance on subsidies and be moving forward with “eyes wide open” to the changing world of subsidies (or lack of…).
Symonds & Sampson have a specialist team of agents across the region who can assist with the applications for all rural grants and subsidies. For more information, contact George Whittaker on 01305 236578