The publication of Defra’s Policy Statement on Health and Harmony indicates that the last year for Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements to be put in place could be 2024, with the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM) fully open for applications in 2025. This highlights the need for continuous improvement of CS delivery before the introduction of ELMs.
The NFU continues to push for delivery improvements and wants to see a return to payments being made on time and agreement offers being made before the agreement starts. The RPA takes over delivery of ELS, HLS and CS on 1 October. RPA has promised that NFU will see a marked improvement.
Late payments remain an on-going issue. When we should be talking about projections for 2018 payments we are still chasing outstanding 2017 payments. Following NFU requests Defra have just announced bridging payments for ELS and HLS agreement holders. This will mean all agreement holders will have received a 2017 payment by the end of September. However, there are over 11,000 still waiting for final 2017 payments.
To help manage the impacts of drought, the NFU lobbied for temporary amends to agreements. Defra has not granted blanket derogations, but has put forward a number of temporary prescription amends. To use these flexibilities, agreement holders must notify RPA/ NE.
Members can access the latest Countryside Stewardship update here.