Making the most of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme

By Ben Canning

Farmers in England can take advantage of an improved Countryside Stewardship (CS) offer this year. As we enter the transition period from Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), the stewardship scheme can help to smooth this shift. The new offering will prepare and position farm businesses well for future subsidies.

What’s new for 2021?

Changes have been made this year to broaden the options available and to make the process simpler.

Whilst it’s no longer possible to apply for capital-only agreements under Mid Tier, there’s a new standalone capital grant package available.

Mid Tiers can still include management options and capital items, with new items available to support improving air and water quality and to help reduce ammonia emissions. Though, Mid Tier capital items will be capped at £120,000 for air and water quality options and £50,000 for boundary, trees and orchard options.

The Higher Tier scheme is also available to cover the more environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands. The options, supplements and capital items available are more complex than Mid Tier due to the needs of these sites.

New Capital Grants

If a farmer is only wishing to apply for a capital item, then this is possible through the new capital grant offer element of the stewardship scheme. Land parcels already in existing CS agreements are usually ineligible. An exception to this, however, is land in a wildlife offer agreement which can be used for capital grants at the same time.

There are 67 items available to select from and the maximum grant threshold per application has increased from £10,000 to £60,000. Although there is a limit of £20,000 per category – air quality, water quality and boundaries (fencing is included in the water quality classification).

Popular capital spending options include,

  • Fencing
  • Hedge Laying
  • Concrete yard renewal
  • Cow and machinery hardcore tracks

Options for air and water quality require prior approval from a Catchment Sensitive Farming officer, so it’s important that you’re organised and leave plenty of time to receive the required approval before you submit your application.

Key dates: Countryside Stewardship (2021 applications)

The transformation into ELMS

It’s important to note that applying for a countryside stewardship scheme will give some funding certainty as BPS is phased out in 2021-27. The first CS payment should be received from December 2020 onwards, to coincide with the second year of BPS payment reductions.

If a countryside stewardship agreement starts in 2021 or later, you can still apply to the ELMS scheme once fully rolled out in 2024. The agreement can just be terminated without penalty.

Taking away the complexities of the application process!

Our depth of experience and knowledge in applying for, and achieving, successful grant applications means that we understand the ins and outs of the process, from start to finish. Our Farm Consultants will be able to guide you on the most suitable option for you and your business, to ensure you benefit from these grants in the best way possible.

Contact us now to find out more.