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The future of environmental schemes

Tue 15 Mar 2022

Agricultural business consultancy

The environment is becoming more important to help replace lost subsidies and improve the countryside for future generations.

Brown&CoJHWalter had another record breaking year for delivering countryside stewardship applications for 2021, with over 315 clients farming 158,800 acres and encompassing 33,000 acres of scheme features equating to over £35 million worth of options and capital items.

ELMs will be a staged release with parts of Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) now open for applications, until all tiers including The Local Nature Recovery (Tier 2) and Landscape Recovery (Tier 3) are available from 2024.

Mid Tier application windows will be open until 2023 (1st January 2024 start date) and will still run for the five year duration. New Mid Tier agreements will include an early exit clause to allow agreement holders to enter ELMs, should it be more applicable. Unlike ELS, Mid Tier offers the flexibility to enter as much land as you want whilst being paid on an area basis for your chosen options. Most businesses can identify areas that are difficult to farm; and it is these areas that we encourage farmers to transfer into a Mid Tier scheme to take a fixed return from marginal land. 

In January, Defra announced option payments will increase for current and new agreement holders which, on average, will see scheme values increase by 10 to 20%. Returns will vary due to the broad choice of options but the most common arable options will return a gross amount of £500 to £640/ha. The highest paying option is a combination of Wild Bird Cover (AB9) with supplementary feeding (AB12) which totals £969/ha. Many farmers have turned to Mid Tier as a way of including a new rotational break crop into their rotation. The most popular being a two year legume fallow (AB15) paying £569/ha, which also has its benefits for blackgrass control. Capital works up to £60,000 can be included in a Mid Tier scheme for options such as hedge laying & planting, livestock fencing, and concrete yard renewal for water priority areas.

Inspections are increasingly focused on management as well as appraising quantity of options. It is strongly recommended that businesses have regular ‘health checks’ to ensure that correct records are being kept. Our Scheme Management service will give you confidence that your scheme is compliant and businesses using these services have found the inspection process much easier, which can reduce the risk of financial penalty.

Woodland planting schemes are also available through England Woodland Creation Offer which will fund up to £8,500/ha to cover the costs of planting followed by an annual maintenance payment of £300/ha for 10 years.  This can then be linked to the Woodland Carbon Guarantee allowing the land owner to auction off their carbon credits, from newly planted trees only and receive an annual payment of c. £200/ha for 30 years.  For smaller scale plantings, the Woodland Trust’s MoreWoods scheme would be more applicable covering roughly 80% of costs.

Applications for all schemes open on February 8 with deadlines being July 29  for Mid Tier and the simplified Wildlife Offers.

There are multiple aspects to Countryside Stewardship with differing criteria and deadlines and so we strongly advise contacting us to plan early in order to deliver the right scheme for you.

For more information contact Tom Cheer on 01522 457163 or email

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