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Countryside Stewardship – Funding Guarantee & Scheme Administration Update

Countryside Stewardship - field planted with saplings

HM Treasury confirmed last year on 24th July 2018 that, even in a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, funding is guaranteed for Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements signed by 31st December 2020 for the life of the agreement, provided they offer ‘good value for money’ and are ‘in line with domestic strategic priorities.’

Delivery of CS (and Environmental Stewardship) was subsequently transferred to the Rural Payments Agency effective 1st October 2018.

The remaining deadline for this year’s submissions is 31st July 2019 for Offers and Mid Tier Schemes, and our Rural Team are busy finalising submissions on behalf of our clients.

Future of Farming Payments
BPS and CS will phase out and be replaced by ELM (Environmental Land Management), which will be rolled out nationally 2025-2027.

Between 2021 and 2027 it is expected that BPS will be decreased each year but as yet the structure of the annual decrease has not been confirmed.

Countryside Stewardship funding

As can be seen from the above infographic originally sourced from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), it is only a matter of time before farmers will be paid “public money for public goods”.

We therefore strongly advise that you consider an environmental scheme on your holding, not only to guarantee a source of income throughout the inevitable turbulence of Brexit but also to ensure that you are “ahead of the game” from 2025.

For further information and assistance please call our Rural Team on 01608 661666.

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Sheldon Bosley Knight Complete BPS 2018 Submissions

countryside stewardship applications

countryside stewardship applicationsSince the beginning of 2018, Sheldon Bosley Knight’s Rural Land Agency department have been preparing annual Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications for numerous farmers and land owners. Over 33,000 acres of land throughout Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire was reviewed as part of the application process.

The procedure in applying for BPS involved meeting with farmers and landowners to discuss cropping, mapping ineligible features, calculating Ecological Focus Area and crop diversification requirements, and hand delivering supporting documentation to the Rural Payments Agency Reading Office. The two month application window was particularly onerous due to alterations made by the RPA often being incorrect.

Bee on wildflowerNow the 15th of May deadline has passed the team are moving onto preparing Countryside Stewardship Scheme applications for both Mid-Tier and the new ‘streamlined’ Wildlife Offers.

Application packs for the Scheme need to be requested by 31st May 2018 and completed applications must be submitted by 31st July. If anyone wishes to discuss Countryside Stewardship in greater detail, including how it could be integrated into their farm business, please do not hesitate to get in contact with either Amelia Sheldon or Sam White on 01608 661666.

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New Countryside Stewardship – Streamlined Options

Bee on wildflower

Bee on wildflowerFour new Countryside Stewardship (CS) offers have been introduced for farmers and land managers in order to boost biodiversity and help protect and enhance farmland and the countryside.

The improvements that have been made make it much simpler for farmers and land managers to apply.

The four new Offers – Online Arable Offer, Lowland Grazing Offer, Upland Offer and Mixed Farming Offer – will provide tailored options covering the full range of different farm types, so farmers and land managers can deliver environmental benefits no matter where they are or how they farm. The Arable offer is also available to apply for online, making it even simpler still.

These new offers will complement the existing Higher Tier as well as the Mid-Tier offer which has been enhanced and will continue to be available, supporting more comprehensive agreements delivering organics, historic, water quality, wet grassland and traditional orchards.

Blue Farm Tractor in fieldThe huge benefit of the new offers being quicker and easier to apply for will save farmers valuable time. It is also a non-competitive scheme, so all farmers who meet the eligibility can enter into an agreement.

The popular Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant will also receive additional funding from 2018, with farmers and land managers able to apply for a maximum grant of £10,000, up from £5,000 in previous application rounds.

Scheme handbooks with more detail on how to apply and the best options for different farms have been published – click here – and detail the different options for each of the four offers.

The request for application form deadline is 31 May 2018, with the deadline for submissions being earlier than usual, 31 July 2018.

Please contact Sam White at our Shipston Office for more information swhite@sheldonbosleyknight.co.uk or 01608 661666.

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Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier Applications

If your Environmental Stewardship agreement ends in 2016 or if you have not applied for Stewardship in the past, you are likely to be eligible for a Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier agreement.

Now that BPS applications have been submitted I will soon start engaging with anyone who would like to explore the possibility of an agreement.

The deadline for applications is the end of September 2016, but due to the amount of work involved in the competitive application process I would prefer to get started in June where possible.

Sally Pentreath - Sheldon Bosley - Shipston on StourIf a 2016 application is successful, the new agreement would start on 1st January 2017 and last for 5 years.

There some pros and cons, but also some misconceptions so, if you are considering an application but not sure if it is for you, a discussion may be helpful to help you decide whether it would be compatible with your particular farming business.

Call Lin on 01608 661666 to make an appointment to see me, Sally Pentreath, in June.

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Farmers Subsidy and Stewardship Applications Deadlines

tractor in field

tractor in fieldIt is now the season when members of the Rural Land Agency Department are busy assisting farmers with their various subsidy applications.

The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is important to all farmers, with a deadline of 16th May to get the main application and its associated land transfers and changes, and entitlement transfers, submitted accurately and in good time. The BPS application process also requires detailed ‘greening’ calculations which can be quite complex, particularly for the bigger arable and mixed holdings.

In January 2015 the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) announced that 2015 BPS applications would only be accepted online, but later conceded that the online system was not fit for purpose and so, in mid-April, provided paper forms for postal or hand submission. For 2016, RPA are giving applicants the choice of applying online or using paper forms. In both cases these will be pre-populated.

RPA are providing paper forms to anyone who applied on paper in 2014. RPA is encouraging any farmer who applied online in 2014 to do so again in 2016, and will therefore supply pre-populated electronic forms to roughly 60,000 applicants. It remains to be seen whether the online service will be sufficiently reliable for us to make online applications in any numbers however, and if necessary paper forms will be requested for all applicants.

Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and English Woodland Grant Schemes (EWGS) all now require annual claims before the same 16th May deadline and we deal with a good number of these alongside the BPS claims.

Sally Pentreath - Sheldon Bosley - Shipston on StourEach year we also advise and assist several farmers with the transition from expiring ES agreements to the new CS. The application window for this in 2016 runs from mid-March to the end of September to help avoid the problems caused by the shorter 3 month window for CS applications in 2015 which ran from 1st July to 30th September – right through the main harvest time. The CS scheme now encompasses some ‘stand-alone’ schemes, with separate deadlines, such as the Hedgerow and Boundary Grant Scheme and the Woodland Creation scheme, providing capital grants for a range of items.

For more information contact Sally Pentreath at our Shipston office on 01608 661666 or email spentreath@sheldonbosley.co.uk.