As of 15th January 2018 the window for Countryside Stewardship applications is officially open with the new addition of ‘CS for Wildlife’. These schemes have made the process of applying easier, but making the choice of which scheme best suits your farming business more difficult.
Current Stewardship agreement holders are eligible to apply this year as long as their agreement expires before 1st January 2019.
New CS for Wildlife – Guaranteed Entry Schemes
The introduction of the 4 new and simplified agreement offers has created an easier path into stewardship.
· Online Arable Offer
· Lowland Grazing Offer
· Mixed Farming Offer
· Upland Grazing Offer
With the exception of the Upland Grazing Offer, all applicants will be expected to place 3% of their agricultural land into the scheme to qualify. This will have to be in addition to any EFA requirements.
Options are centred around providing food sources and shelter for wild birds and pollinators. For each offer, 2-3 environmental objectives must be met.
Any holdings containing SSSI’s or Scheduled Monuments will have to apply though Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship to enable more specific management options.
Revised Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship – Contract Farming for the Environment
All of the options in “New CS for Wildlife” are available plus many more, some of which were only available in Higher Tier last year.
Mid Tier allows you to maximise the environmental benefit and income that you can generate from the scheme through; creating habitat for wildlife, protecting soil and water resources and enhancing historic features. However it is competitive and applications are scored against each other.
There is also the opportunity to apply for capital works such as planting new hedges, yard re-concreting, sprayer wash down areas with associated infrastructure. The funding is often dependant on site specific environmental priorities, check with your advisor which items are available to you.
Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship – Funding for specialist management
Higher Tier Stewardship is primarily focused on providing specialist advice from Natural England for applicants whose holding has the potential to deliver targeted benefits. This applies to large landscape scale schemes, creation or management of priority habitat or ensuring the continued management of habitat for a resident priority species.
Not all expiring HLS agreement will transfer over into Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship, often the Mid Tier application is a better option.
Whether you are considering entering stewardship for the first time or have recently come out of ELS/HLS. There is the potential for every farming business to engage with Countryside Stewardship.