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Countryside Stewardship: a steppingstone in preparation for the future of agriculture

Tue 11 February 2020

Today, DEFRA announced that the application window for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme has opened; encouraging farmers and landowners to embrace the opportunity to prepare themselves for the future Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), and to be paid for improvements they make to the local environment. 

The new Agriculture Bill, which is set to be passed this year, will replace the current EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which pays direct payments to farmers for the total amount of land farmed; meaning future monies will be paid to those delivering public benefits or innovation. Direct Payments will be phased out over a seven-year period, due to start in 2021, and replaced by ELMS, which focuses on:

•         Rewarding public goods with public money

•         Achieving a thriving self-reliant farming system

•         Achieving a trusting and productive relationship between the Government and farming

•         World class animal welfare standards

Speaking about the importance of preparing yourself for the future, Matt Wallace, Rural Chartered Surveyor at youngsRPS said: “We know that ELMS will be introduced in 2021 as a ‘national pilot’ to ensure it is operationally sound before coming fully into force in 2024. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme provides a natural steppingstone to working towards environmental enhancement motivated payments as it concentrates on improving the local environment through methods such as restoring wildlife habitats and creating woodlands through to managing flood risk and complex land management.

“A key focus of the ELMs scheme is on public goods; whilst we still aren’t 100% clear on what ‘public goods’ means, we know it is likely to be highly focused on elements such as better air and water quality as well as improved access to the countryside. Those that haven’t signed up to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme before, should do so to ensure the transition to ELMs is a small step rather than a leap.”

Whilst there are annual concerns surrounding the actual payment periods of agricultural funding, the Countryside Stewardship Scheme has improved continually with 2019 payments being made four months earlier than previous years. There are various tier’s and offers available depending on your circumstance

Matt continued: “The Rural Payments Agency have ensured that the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is more accessible than ever and I strongly advise that you take this opportunity as there is nothing gained by holding back.”

For more information on the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, or for assistance in filling out your application; please get in touch with your local agent:
Alnwick Branch: Helen Proud
Hexham Branch: Matt Wallace
Sedgefield and Northallerton Branch: Amanda Wilson