HLS agreement extension? Think before you sign...

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If you are one of the many farmers with a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement from Natural England that is due to expire, it's likely that you will have recently received a letter inviting you to extend your contract for another year.

While this is a positive and sensible move by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England, especially while uncertainties around Brexit still unfold, it is only one option for you to consider. An 'agreement extension' may not necessarily be the best move for every farm business, or even for the wider natural environment for that matter. 

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Countryside Stewardship – too good an opportunity to miss

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As we enter a period of change in agriculture, don't let niggles stop you acting to seize this huge opportunity. Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to go out for a meal unencumbered by children. As my mind works in rather convoluted ways, our time at the restaurant had me thinking about the parallels between what we experienced and, oddly,...
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Countryside Stewardship - is it for you?

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As I sit here writing this blog in my office, from the corner of my eye I can see a fairly substantial pile of paperwork relating to the ten-or-so Countryside Stewardship applications I am putting together on behalf of customers. Thankfully, Natural England has extended the deadline for submitting completed applications to 31 st August, so I can br...
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Working Catchment Sensitive Farming and farmland wildlife options within Mid Tier

Working Catchment Sensitive Farming and farmland wildlife options within Mid Tier
Following Michael Gove's recent speech at the Oxford Farming Conference in which he began to outline the future direction of agricultural policy in England, it is becoming increasingly clear that soil health, water quality and biodiversity are very high up on the agenda. These issues could be addressed with the 'stick' of regulation or with the 'ca...
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The Big Farmland Bird Count

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With winter in full swing and farmland birds seeking out all of the opportunities on farm to feed themselves, now is the time to see how they are faring on your own farm. Each year, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) host the Big Farmland Bird Count. Farmers and land managers undertake a lot of work to help protect and nurture the wild...
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Simplified offers for new Countryside Stewardship Agreements

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The complexities of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme have been well documented. They range from an over-complicated application process and onerous evidence and record-keeping requirements, to difficult to navigate online guidance and delays in agreement offers. In a recent announcement on the GOV.UK website, it seems that DEFRA and Natural Engla...
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Mid-Tier - five minutes to change your mind

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Given my role, you will not be surprised to learn that I am almost fanatical about getting land managers and farmers to take a look at Countryside Stewardship and particularly Mid Tier agreements. Oh no, I hear you groan! But give me five minutes and I will change your mind... It can't hurt to take a look, can it? I know from my conversations, both...
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