Countryside Stewardship open to new applicants

NFU Yearbook 2019 to 2020

The Countryside Stewardship (CS) application window for 2021 has opened today (11 February 2020) for CS Higher and Mid-Tier agreements to start 1 January 2021, and Hedgerow and Boundaries Grants. This is the first year that agreements are under domestic regulations and this brings about additional flexibility to where CS has previously been governed by EU regulations.

More options are now available online as well as the block to prevent those with scheduled monuments applying to the four Wildlife Offers. Additionally, the NFU lobbied for the flexibility for early exit at no penalty into the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme when it is fully rolled out which has been confirmed for those applying in this application round.

The NFU acknowledge some positive changes this year to the scheme and hopes to see more going forward through the transition period. The RPA has significantly improved payment performance in the past year, and though there are still improvements to be made this has been a step in the right direction. We hope to see this improve further in 2020 to work towards restoring confidence with farmers in the delivery of agri-environment schemes.

All CS agreements confirmed by the end of 2020 will be funded for their full lifetime.

Mid-Tier timescales and deadlines

  • Request application packs by 31 May for paper submissions and 1 June for online.
  • Final date to request endorsement by Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer or other adviser to approve specific options - 31 May.
  • Deadline for Mid-Tier applications including all supporting evidence by 31 July.
  • Agreement start 1 January 2021.

Wildlife Offers

  • Request application pack by the 31 May for paper applications.
  • Online applications do not need to request an application pack and can apply online right until the deadline.
  • The deadline to apply is the 31 July.

Higher Tier deadlines

  • Request application packs by 31 March (both paper and online).
  • Deadline 1 May.
  • Agreements start 1 January 2021.

Hedgerow and Boundary Grants

  • Applications can be made online through the Rural Payment Service, or a paper application can be requested. Applicants can request to receive an application pack in the post but must do so by contacting the RPA by the 31 March.

Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation

You can apply to woodland creation, management plan and tree health grants all year round.

Countryside Stewardship and greening: Double funding

Rural Development Programme (RDP) funding must not pay twice for the same activity (known as double funding). For this reason it is not possible to overlap CS options and Ecological Focus Area (EFA) options in agreements starting 1 January 2021. More information can be found here.

Scheme rules

The full scheme guidance and rules for each of these schemes can be found on gov.uk.

Those new to CS can find out more by attending farm advice events, with a schedule of local events due to be available on gov.uk.

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