FARMERS and land managers in GB are being encouraged to apply for Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements to help them protect and improve the natural environment.
Through CS, farmers can apply for funding to improve their local environment – from restoring wildlife habitats and creating woodlands to managing flood risk. Following close working with industry, changes have been made to the scheme this year to broaden out the options available and make it easier to apply.
CS will eventually be replaced with the new Environmental Land Management scheme and by entering an agreement now, farmers will be best-placed to benefit from the new agricultural policy once it is fully rolled out in 2024.
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “An improving and expanding Countryside Stewardship scheme is a great opportunity to deliver environmental benefits on your land and receive financial incentives for doing so. I strongly encourage farmers to apply for 2022 agreements.
“We are guaranteeing that anyone who enters a new Countryside Stewardship agreement will be able to leave early in order to join the Environmental Land Management scheme once fully rolled out in 2024, so there is no reason not to apply today.”
Following ongoing work with industry leaders and customer feedback, some changes have been made to the available schemes this year, including:
n New options to help improve air quality, reduce ammonia emissions and improve water quality. Advice will be available from Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers to ensure these environmental actions are targeted to where they can best benefit priority habitats;
n An improved Countryside Stewardship capital grant offer, making 67 options available which can sit alongside a Countryside Stewardship Wildlife offer;
n New wood pasture options in the uplands, at payment rates suitable for upland application, providing a mosaic habitat of grassland, scrub and trees;
n The Countryside Stewardship capital offer to be available to Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement holders, where the options are compatible;
n Improved woodland options, including bringing bracken control and stone wall options into woodland management and combining Woodland Creation and Woodland Maintenance grants;
n Increased number of capital items that farmers can apply for using the Rural Payments service, covering water capital, hedgerows and boundaries and air quality;
n Expanded eligibility criteria for the upland option UP2 (management of rough grazing for birds), enabling more land managers to access this option and further improve the upland offer.