The Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) is now open for applications for agreements with a 1st January 2022 start date. Farmers applying in the current application window will have a guaranteed income stream, with annual payments until 2027. As BPS is set to reduce, considering a Countryside Stewardship agreement may be a welcome alternative source of income for many farmers. The last date to submit an online application is 31st July 2021.
It is important to note that options for reducing ammonia emissions and water capital options will be delivered through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) initiative, the latest date to request support and approval from your Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer for the Mid-Tier application is 18th June 2021.
As part of Defra’s efforts to improve and simplify the scheme, there have been some key changes to the Countryside Stewardship scheme this year. Countryside Stewardship land management options no longer have requirements that include prescriptive dates, sward heights and mixtures. Instead, the options have aims which the agreement holder must seek to achieve. This change gives farmers more flexibility in managing certain aspects of the options and more control over the successful management of their options. The changes made to the Countryside Stewardship may find more farmers in favour of the scheme where previously the scheme had not suited their business structure.
Countryside Stewardship is an excellent stepping stone to prepare your business for the future Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which is due to be rolled out in 2025. The Government guaranteed that farmers entering new Countryside Stewardship agreements starting on 1st January 2021 or later will be given the option to end their agreement early in order to enter the ELM scheme if they wish.
2021 sees the addition of five new options for Mid-Tier, below:
ED1 - Educational Access
AQ1 - Automatic Slurry Scraper
AQ2 - Low Ammonia Emission Flooring for Livestock Buildings
TE4 - Supply and plant a tree
TE5 - Supplement for use of individual tree-shelters
The capital grant offer has been expanded to cover 67 capital items available under full Mid-Tier agreements. The capital funding available under a full Mid-Tier agreement has also changed, with a funding cap of £120,000 being introduced for 2021. This will limit the funding available in any single application.
Other changes – WD4 – Management of Wood Pasture and Parkland, has been changed to allow for use in Upland areas, with an increased payment rate for upland farmers. Eligibility for the upland option UP2 – Management of rough grazing for birds, has also been widened to encourage greater uptake and improve the upland offer.
If you think Countryside Stewardship could be for you, please get in touch with a member of the George F. White Farm team on 0333 920 2220 to discuss how to get the most out of the scheme on your farm.