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Countryside Stewardship - is it right for me?

Countryside Stewardship - is it right for me?

What is Countryside Stewardship and is it right for me?

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme provides financial incentives for farmers, foresters and land managers to look after and improve the environment, protect wildlife, create new habitats and reduce flood risk.

In the first of our new agri-business webinars, Anna Jovanovic, Assistant Rural Surveyor at Moule & Co, discusses whether you should consider going into a scheme as well as the most common questions that she is asked here.

The main elements to the scheme are Higher Tier, Mid Tier (which includes Wildlife Offers) and Capital Grants. Within these elements of the scheme, you can choose from a range of options covering multi-year agreements, capital items or a mix of both. Most of the elements of the scheme are competitive. This means that if you decide to apply for Countryside Stewardship, depending which route you choose, your application will be scored against other applications. This is because applications are assessed to determine which ones offer the best results for the environment in your local area, and the best value for money. If your application includes organic conversion and organic maintenance options, they will not be scored. However, other options on your application will be scored. The 4 Wildlife Offers, and capital grants for Woodland Management Plans and Woodland Tree Health are not scored.

What are the benefits of Countryside Stewardship?

Wildlife and nature: restoring habitats, providing food and nesting places for birds, insects and other animals creating areas for rare flowering plants and managing hedges.

Pollinators: providing pollen and nectar sources, providing nesting places, and making sure the right resources for wild pollinators are where they are most needed.

Water/flooding: making water cleaner, reducing the risk of flooding by encouraging changes to farming practice (such as crop management), improving farm infrastructure, and creating woodland.

Woodland: funding tree health, the creation of new woodland and supporting the management of existing woodland, and developing management plans.

Countryside Stewardship helps to improve the historic environment, landscape character, genetic conservation, educational access, and reduce the effects of climate change. It is also protecting the natural environment for future generations

Which Countryside Stewardship element is right for me?

Countryside Stewardship is made up of the following elements:

Higher Tier – Multi-year agreements and certain standalone capital items for the most environmentally important sites, including commons and woodlands. These are usually in places that need complex management, such as restoring habitats, and improving woodland.

Mid Tier – Multi-year agreements and capital items that focus on widespread environmental issues, such as reducing water pollution or improving the farmed environment for farmland birds and wild pollinators. Also includes water capital grants.

Wildlife Offers – Multi-year agreements with a range of highly targeted and effective field based options. They support wildlife by creating sources of nectar and pollen for insect pollinators, winter food for seed-eating birds and improved habitats. Four different offers are available tailored to specific farming practices. They are quick and simple to apply for using the Rural Payments service. Wildlife offers are not scored; if you meet the specified requirements, you will be offered an agreement.

If your application for any of these schemes is successful, your agreement will start on 1 January 2021. Most multi-year agreements are for 5 years.

Capital Grants - these are typically for 2 years. Water Quality: a capital grant to manage water pollution and improve water quality in high priority areas. Hedgerows and Boundaries: capital grant to restore existing farm boundaries, and provide benefits to the environment and landscape. Woodland Management Plans: a one-off payment to support the production of a UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) compliant 10 year woodland management plan. Woodland Tree Health: one-off payment to restock or improve woodland due to tree health problems. Woodland Creation Grant: a 2 year capital grant to plant and protect young trees.

The full overview document can be viewed here.

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