FWAG SW welcomes Michael Gove’s announcement that Countryside Stewardship and future agri-environment schemes will be easier to access for farmers.

The proposal to bring together four easy to access packages for arable, upland, mixed and grass farms should encourage more farmers to access Countryside Stewardship, some of whom may be put off by a full application process. We believe that this could be a positive outcome for the environment and farmers alike

Until we see more details of the basic packages it is difficult to comment on these changes, but we urge all farmers to look carefully at the basic packages to see if they are the best option for them. It could be that a full application will deliver a higher level of benefits to farmers and the environment, especially around capital works, and the range of revenue options available.

As always, we believe that taking advice from a trusted conservation adviser can deliver the best outcomes for farm businesses, soil health, sustainable food production and the environment.

In the 2017 round of applications, FWAG SW advisers secured total payments under Countryside Stewardship for farmers in the South West totalling £4.53m over the next five years, £915,000 of which was for capital works. The average value of annual revenue payments amounted to £70.34 per Ha of land that was in the application, or £45.74 per hectare of total farm size. It will be interesting to see if the new basic packages are able to achieve similar grant payments to a full Countryside Stewardship application.

Looking to future agri-environment schemes, whilst we understand change and simplification is necessary, we believe that the underlying options under Countryside Stewardship have been honed after years of development through the various incarnations of stewardship. FWAG SW believe that this body of knowledge and experience must be drawn upon to keep meaningful benefits for the environment, whilst streamlining application processes and extraneous record keeping requirements.  Furthermore, the landscape scale Facilitation Fund, or Cluster Farm approach, has been a cutting-edge development within Countryside Stewardship and we want to see this continue in future schemes.

We will keep our members informed of any further details of the new application process for the simplified packages.

Read the GOV.UK article here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-secretary-streamlines-support-for-farmers