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- Act Now to Receive Funds under the New Environmental Stewardship Scheme
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Act Now to Receive Funds under the New Environmental Stewardship Scheme
Contrary to some recent press coverage, which stated that woodland should not be included in the Rural Land Registration, Butler Sherborn advises that woodlands should definitely be included.
14 February 2005
Published: February 2005
Butler Sherborn Says Farmers and Landowners Should Act Now to Receive a Share of the £150 million Available under the New Environmental Stewardship Scheme
Contrary to some recent press coverage, which stated that woodland should not be included in the Rural Land Registration, Butler Sherborn advises that woodlands should definitely be included. If not registered, landowners will not be able to apply for the new English Woodland Grant Scheme, which is also operated under the England Rural Development Programme.
Specialist farm and environmental business consultants at Butler Sherborn say that if farmers and country landowners are to receive a share of the £150 million set aside for the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will launch this spring, they should act now!
Butler Sherborn has a 100% success rate in negotiating, on behalf of its clients, income generating agri-environment schemes such as Environmental Stewardship. Head of the firm’s environmental consultancy Emily Hammick says: "The Common Agricultural Policy has undergone the biggest shake up in its 30 year history. Land management, with a strong emphasis on environmental sensitivity, is set to provide a worthwhile income stream for farmers and landowners alike."
There are a number of important issues farmers and landowners should be addressing now, if they have not already done so. They should:
* Apply to DEFRA for a holding number
* Apply to the Rural Land Register for a digital plan of their holding
* Check/revisit their digital Rural Land Register plan to ensure it includes all land, water and woodland
* Submit your application for the Single Farm Payment by 16th May 2005
The Environmental Stewardship scheme has been designed to benefit everyone. Mrs Hammick explains: "Not only does Environmental Stewardship serve to reinforce the important role our farmers and rural land owners have in conserving and preserving our richly diverse landscape, it also provides them with a significant business opportunity, and an incentive if you like, for doing so in a very simple way."
There are three levels to the new Environmental Stewardship scheme: Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).
ELS, which starts this March, is straightforward and is designed to enable farmers wishing to deliver effective work on a whole farm basis, such as hedgerow maintenance and leaving conservation strips around fields etc, to complete the application forms for themselves. ELS qualification, based on a points system, is guaranteed provided that a minimum of thirty points per hectare is achieved and that the farmer continues his obligations under the stewardship. In return, the farmer will receive £30 per hectare per year for five years from the scheme. DEFRA anticipates that 80% of farmers will be applying for ELS over the next year.
Organic farmers under OELS will receive a higher rate payment of £60 per hectare which recognises the additional contribution of their systems to the environment. Conversion aid payments will also be made available to farmers who meet set criteria under OELS.
Those applying for HLS need to have ELS already in place. They should also commission a thorough biodiversity study, resulting in a Farm Environment Plan (FEP); this must be completed before the HLS application is submitted. This is a huge task for farmers at what will soon be their busiest time of year. DEFRA advises using the services of an expert advisor to assist.
DEFRA will only accept FEPs completed to ‘the desired standard’ and where an agent such as Butler Sherborn is used, DEFRA will remunerate the farmer based on the size of the farm, whether their application is successful or not.
The HLS is aimed at farmers who are currently in the Countryside Stewardship scheme and Environmentally Sensitive Areas scheme; they should apply for the HLS when their existing schemes come to an end. Mrs Hammick says there is likely to be much competition amongst applicants to qualify for HLS: "With DEFRA’s limited pot of money for the entire scheme, I am concerned that following the expected large uptake of ELS from March this year, there may not be enough money for all HLS claimants once their scheme comes on-line in August.
"My advice to farmers and landowners is to seek expert advice as soon as they can. They should bear in mind that a good FEP takes around two months to produce. Those who wish to start a HLS agreement as quickly as possible should submit their FEP to the RPA by the end of April this year."
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