Countryside Stewardship for English Farmers Re-opens

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The window has re-opened for applications for Countryside Stewardship (CS) in England, opening the door to capital items such as concreting and roofing, as well as land options with annual payments.

CS is split into 4 different elements:

  • Water Capital Only Grants – for those who are in a red high priority area for water quality (most of Herefordshire, part and Worcestershire and Shropshire all within the red catchment), grant is capped at £10,000 for capital items only. Requires approval from a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer. This would be a 2-year agreement on the parcel(s) included in the works.
  • Mid Tier – combines options on the land such as in-field margins, wildflower mixes, and over winter stubbles with annual payments, with potentially an unlimited amount of capital works to include fencing and hedging options, as well as concreting, roofing, biobeds etc…  This would be a 5-year agreement on parcels selected to go into the agreement. This does not need to include the whole farm.
  • 4 Wildlife Offers – 4 targeted options only offered, which have been specifically designed to suit either arable, dairy, livestock or mixed farming, and provide a smaller amount of options that can be chosen. No capital items are available with this scheme.
  • Higher Tier – Similar to Mid Tier but slightly more demanding, with a wider array of options available, targeted at those farms with key environmental features and wildlife. A huge array of options are available with relatively high annual payments. Capital items are available with this scheme. Generally, 5-year agreements, but can be as long as 10 or 20 years in some incidences.

Capital items are usually the highlight of these schemes, with concreting funded up to £27.14/m2, roofing over livestock handling areas, silage and slurry pits is funded up to £62/m2. Depending on how much of the work you undertake yourself, the grant has potential to stretch quite far, and make a lasting difference to the farmyard. It should be noted some of the key capital works such as concreting and roofing are only available to those farmers in a red priority area for water quality. More general items such as guttering, stoning gateways and fencing can also be funded.

The photos show a Herefordshire farmyard prior to concreting under a water capital only grant, and the farmyard once the concreting had been finished. In terms of the scheme, the yard has reduced run off and allowed for the separation of clean and dirty water, practically it is now easier to load/unload feed and livestock lorries, keep the holding tidier, and store bales on clean corners of the yard during the feeding period.

We are now certain that farming subsidies as we know them are set for a big change, and these agreements can potentially offer thousands of pounds per annum for those who are willing to engage in these options on their holding. We understand, the transition to the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is due to take place in 2024, it is believed you will have the option to continue your CS agreement until the natural end date, or change to ELMS with no negative financial implications. CS provides a great opportunity to do some on farm investment with relatively good rates for capital works. At Agri Advisor we encourage farmers to capitalise on these schemes now, while this funding is available. Please contact Ellie Watkins in the Hereford Office for more information 01544 327122 or 07496 006808.