Farmers and land managers can now submit applications for the next year’s Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier agreements which will reward them for their actions to protect and enhance the natural environment.
Countryside Stewardship gives farmers and land managers the opportunity to be paid for environmental work alongside sustainable food production, from restoring wildlife habitats and managing woodlands, to mitigating flood risks. 32,000 Countryside Stewardship agreements are now in place across England – a 94% increase in uptake since 2020 – including nearly 26,000 Mid Tier agreements.
Following farmer feedback, the scheme has continued to evolve and improve with:
- the removal of the limit on the value of capital items in the water or air quality, hedgerow and boundary, or natural flood management priorities
- a broadened offer to support natural flood management, create more areas of scrub, and reduce nitrogen inputs in groundwater;
- improvements to the application process to make it easier for farmers and land managers, with a new online application service, the removal of the need for farmers to request an application pack before starting their application, automatic checks to enable applications to be processed quicker, and an annual declaration.
- an average increase of 10% for revenue payment rates and 48% for capital payment rates, as announced in January.
The scheme plays an important role in the Government’s efforts to make food production more resilient and efficient whilst contributing towards the UK’s environmental goals on carbon, biodiversity, water quality and net zero.
Among the habitats which farmers are already being paid to protect and enhance under Countryside Stewardship are grasslands, which will be the focus of Sir David Attenborough’s Wild Isles documentary this Sunday.
More than 50,000 hectares of different types of grassland are already managed under Countryside Stewardship agreements, with a 100,000-plus hectares under Environmental Stewardship agreements.
This shows Countryside Stewardship is a key vehicle for delivering significant and important outcomes for the climate and environment, alongside food production, working together with farmers and rural communities.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “Countryside Stewardship is already popular amongst farmers, with almost 32,000 people signed up across England and something on offer for every type of farm.
“With the latest application window opening today, I urge farmers to take a look at the full range of options and capital items available and consider the improved application process and the removal of the limit on capital grants to see if they could benefit in 2024.”