Relaunch of Countryside Stewardship Schemes

Relaunch of Stewardship schemes a major boost for improvements in the farmed environment

The first tranche of Basic Payment monies from the Countryside Stewardship Scheme have arrived in bank accounts, with more than 71,000 farms receiving their payment. According to the Rural Payments Agency, payments worth £1.3bn have been made so far, to nearly 85% of eligible claimants.

The start of the year brings more positive news regarding the Stewardship scheme; preliminary details were recently released in November on the plans announced by Michael Gove to revitalise the Countryside Stewardship schemes.

The Environmental Secretary said, “I have set out plans to improve our current schemes, starting with simplifying support for farmers to protect and enhance our landscapes and countryside. But these measures are just the beginning – the first steps towards a simplified system of support.

“Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working closely with our farmers to make sure we listen to what they want as we design a new approach and realise our vision for the future of UK food and farming outside the EU.”

Changes to the Scheme

The new arrangements will be much easier to access and strongly resemble the old entry level scheme (ELS). There are four categories:

  • Arable
  • Grassland
  • Mixed farms
  • Upland farms

Under each category, applicants can “mix and match” from a range of the most popular stewardship options. There are also improvements, more money and easier application for the “hedges and boundaries” option.

These include options such as AB8 for overwintered stubble, which can help with blackgrass control, and a range of buffering, field margin and hedgerow management plans. All of these will improve the farmed environment without necessarily reducing production.

Most importantly, and unlike the previous Stewardship schemes, the new offers will no longer be subject to competitive “point scoring”. Therefore, any eligible farmer can join the scheme. Full details and application forms will be released later this month.

Commenting on the announcement, Head of Rural Business John Billings said, “We believe that the new arrangements will prove very popular, providing real environmental benefits without the bureaucracy which caused the disappointing take up of the previous Stewardship scheme. If this is indicative of the government’s future agricultural policy post Brexit, it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

To speak to a member of our Rural Business team, please contact us on 01903 234094.