Herefordshire is a diverse agricultural county, however something that remains common throughout the county is the presence of rivers weaving the way through agricultural land.
It is because of the number of rivers in the county and subsequent risk of agricultural run-off, that nearly the whole of the county has been identified as a High Priority Area for improving water quality. This means subject to area and officer approval, your farm could be eligible for a stand-alone grant of up to £10,000 for items such as concrete yard renewal, roofing over slurry and silage pits, and livestock and machinery tracks.
In order to be considered for a grant, you need to apply for an application pack by the 31stMay 2019, and for the first time this can be completed online, reducing the wait for the pack to arrive. Thereafter, your local catchment sensitive farming officer (CSFO) needs to be contacted to arrange an on-site meeting to discuss your proposals, the CSFO will also identify items that are identified as a priority to Natural England and therefore are more likely to be accepted for a grant. Applications for grants need to be submitted by the 31stJuly 2019.
Farms mostly likely to be prioritised for grants, are included in a high priority list produced by Natural England, however, that does not necessarily exclude other farms; if, a clear benefit to water quality can be displayed. The list prioritises farms with sloping terrain, that keep cattle, or are situated close to a river amongst other things, therefore if your farm ticks any of those boxes you are likely to already be on the high priority list. A CSFO will still visit holdings not included in the list, and once there, if you can demonstrate how your project could improve water quality, you still have a good chance of being endorsed for funding.
In my experience, these grants can be a very straightforward way of making notable farmyard and farm business improvements, without long term obligations or overbearing regulations. Naturally there are required standards for items like roofing and concreting, but it is nothing you would not expect if completing the work at your own cost. If you are accepted for a grant, the parcel of land you have included in the application (i.e. the farmyard parcel), will be contained within an agreement for two years.
The photos show the same farmyard in south Herefordshire before and after concreting was carried out using grant funding, the farmer was so pleased with the results, a further application has been successfully made to concrete a different yard area later in the Spring.
While Water Capital Grants are limited to £10,000, if you were considering a full Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship agreement, the amount of capital works available is potentially unlimited. However, whilst well thought out Mid-Tiers can be very beneficial on some farms, they may not suit every holding, so give us a ring to discuss your application.
The priority area extends into a large portion of South Shropshire, Worcestershire and the Forest of Dean, however this scheme is not available in Wales. We are keen to help farmers submit applications for schemes such as this while they are available and especially given the uncertain times that may lay ahead in relation to funding opportunities under any future agricultural policy. Applications for schemes can be daunting, but we can assist to make the process as simple as possible for a farmer and make sure that they are accessing funding which is helpful to their business. Please contact Ellie Watkins in our Hereford office for further information on 07495 006808.