Farmers are reminded they need to submit a request for a Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) mid-tier application pack within the next six weeks if they want to apply for an agreement starting on 1 January 2019.
The mid-tier CSS package offers payments to farmers for looking after their land in a way that enhances the environment – by conserving and improving biodiversity, reducing flood risk and protecting soil and water quality.
The deadline by which farmers must have requested an application pack is now fast approaching. While applicants have until 31 July in which to submit their application, they can only do so if they have requested an application pack by 31 May 2018.
In previous years, farmers have needed to telephone Natural England in order to request their application pack.
For 2018, new forms have been made available on the GOV.UK website, which allow farmers to request their application packs by email. At this stage, they can choose whether the packs are sent out in either an electronic format or by post.
Farmers have the choice of applying for either the full mid-tier scheme or one of four new streamlined ‘offers’ which have been introduced this year.
A full mid-tier application involves constructing a bespoke application from a list of more than 130 management options and capital items. The mid-tier scheme is competitive, so each application will be scored according to the environment benefits it offers.
Alternatively, farmers can take a simpler approach and choose from one of what DEFRA calls ‘wildlife offers’ which are tailored around different farm types - arable, lowland grazing, mixed farming or upland.
Under these wildlife offers, farmers are required to pick from a short pick-and-mix menu of prescribed management options.
A big selling point of the simplified offers is that they are non-competitive, meaning that anyone who puts together an eligible application will have it accepted.
However, a downside is that no capital items are included as part of the offers, so farmers wanting to apply for funding for work such as concrete yard renewal or the installation of farm tracks will need to make a standard mid-tier application.
Hedgerows and boundaries
Farmers are also reminded that the deadline for the 2018 Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant scheme closes on 30 April.
The scheme offers grants of up to £10,000 for land managers with stone walls and hedges in need of restoration.
However, farmers looking for funding to plant new hedgerows need to make an application under either mid- or higher tier Countryside Stewardship.
For more information about the Countryside Stewardship Scheme or the Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant contact Ed Trotter.