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 England have been listening to the concerns of growers. Now, they are offering several streamlined application processes to make Countryside Stewardship more attractive to farmers.
What do the offers include?
There will be four new offers:
- Online Arable Offer
- Lowland Grazing Offer
- Upland Offer
- Mixed Farming Offer
As an example, I have outlined the Arable Offer in detail below to give you a flavour of what the new offers are like. More details of all the offers can be found online.
Paperwork for the new offers will be simplified and the evidence checks streamlined. Crucially, the new offers are non-competitive too, so if you meet the requirements you are guaranteed a scheme. In addition, The Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant will receive additional funding which means the maximum grant that can be applied for will double from £5,000 to £10,000.
The Arable Offer
There are three categories of options. Growers must pick at least one option from each category.
- Category one (a minimum of 1ha of these options per 100ha of application land is required and there is no maximum)– nectar flower mixes, flower rich margins
- Category two (a minimum of 2ha of this option per 100ha of application land is required and there is no maximum)– winter bird food
- Category three (no minimum or maximum) – management of hedgerows, skylark plots, nesting plots for lapwing, enhanced overwintered stubble, cultivated areas for arable plants, supplementary winter feeding for farmland birds, 4–6 metre buffer strips on arable land, buffering in-field ponds and ditches
Kings can support you
Kings are in a unique position to help growers gain access to these new Countryside Stewardship grants. We can provide advice on which options will fit well into your existing farm business and draw up applications for both the new simplified offers and the existing Mid-Tier arrangements.
We can also provide option establishment advice, as well as on-going option management support and provide all the seed you require for the options that you choose. Please feel free to talk to us about this exciting new opportunity to provide a stable farm income in these times of uncertainty, as well as help increase the diversity of wildlife on your farm at the same time.
For specific advice for your business related to this blog or any other aspect of crop production get in touch with Kings.