Many farming businesses are unprepared for the significant gap in funding caused by the phased reduction in BPS payments over the next 8 years. One way to offset the shortfall is to consider entering a Countryside Stewardship agreement.
Businesses most likely to lose out include those with ELS/HLS schemes that expire before the end of December 2019, those that are not in a scheme or those that have previously been put off applying for stewardship.
From 2021 BPS payments will start to reduce over a seven-year transitional period to zero in 2027. The new Environmental Land Management Scheme, which will help provide ‘public goods for public money’ will not be in existence until 2025. This means there will be a funding gap between 2021 and 2024.
Now is the time to review your farming business and create a plan on how to survive during these times of uncertainty. One solution would to be enter into a Countryside Stewardship agreement, a five-year scheme lasting from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2024.
Wildlife Offers vs Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship This year’s Countryside Stewardship window allows you to apply for all Wildlife Offers online, simplifying the process. What is more difficult is deciding which scheme would best suit your business.
There are four different types of Wildlife Offers; Arable, Lowland Grazing, Mixed Farming and Upland Grazing. Each offer has a limited set of options to choose from; once you have met the minimum requirements you are guaranteed entry into the scheme. You cannot enter into a wildlife offer if you have a scheduled monument or SSSI on your holding.
The Mid-Tier scheme has a far wider range of agreement options, which suit all land holdings. It also has an expansive list of grant-funded items, such as planting new hedges, fencing or concrete yard renewal. Accessing funding or environmental improvements now will put you in a better position for forthcoming environmental regulation changes post Brexit. The Mid-Tier is competitive, but Brown & Co has a very high success rate with applications.
The 2019 application window for registering interest in Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship and Wildlife offers is open until 31 May, when application packs have to be ordered. Applications must be submitted by 31 July 2019.