OCTOBER PROFESSIONAL PONDERINGS
It would appear that Autumn is very much in full flow, judging by the falling leaves and the unsettled weather. The weather will no doubt be a real pain for those wanting a decent spell of weather in order to get on top of Autumn works.
Last month, I commented that the ongoing Brexit negotiations were having a positive impact on short-term farming prospects, with Commodity prices remaining strong. Since then, the RPA have confirmed the exchange rate applicable to Basic Payment Scheme 2017 payments. The weak pound relative to the Euro has meant that BPS payments will be almost 5% more than the year previous (2016). Based upon last year’s calculations, ie, deductions for the Financial Discipline Mechanism etc, the payment rate should be somewhere around the £90 per acre mark.
A reminder to BPS claimants that there have been various key changes to the “Greening” rules, which will inevitably affect your cropping plans for this Autumn. As ever, we await definitive guidance from the RPA, which we are told will be some time this Autumn. As a consequence of this uncertainty, we are finding that clients are more inclined to use hedges to count towards their “Greening” calculations.
It does require a reasonable amount of time in the first instance to mark up hedges on maps etc, but once they are entered onto the RPA system, then they should be there year on year, so that you do not need to go through the process again.
The key changes to the “Greening” rules are:
- The ban on the application of Plant Protection Productions (PPPs) on Nitrogen Fixing Crops, Fallow and Catch & Cover Crops declared as EFAs.
- The inclusion of trees in a line under the hedge is an option in England.
- The introduction of field margins as an EFA option in England; similar to buffer strips.
- An extension to the EFA Catch Crop period in England from 4 weeks to a minimum of 8 weeks.
Furthermore, we understand there is a suggestion that there will be a ban on grazing or mowing land declared as EFA fallow after the EFA fallow period ends; further information is awaited in this regard. In summary, please do take time to review your “Greening” measures, to ensure that you will comply in 2018.
Now onto agri-environment schemes, it is clear that the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is not nearly as popular as its predecessor, namely, the Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship. However, one aspect of Countryside Stewardship that was not previously dealt with under its predecessor was grant funding for Woodland Creation. Under the Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation, grants are available, where applicants can apply for one-off payments for trees which will be planted and any associated protection items. If their application is successful, the applicant has two years to purchase and plant/install these capital items. The Woodland Creation Grant allows applicants to choose the items from a range of capital items, including tree planting (£1.28 per tree); individual tree shelter (£1.60 per unit) and fencing (£4.00 per metre) to name but a few. Once planted, Agreement holders must maintain their newly planted Woodland for an additional 5 years following completion of the Capital Works. For Woodland Creation, there is a cap of £6,700 per hectare for Capital items, covering both planting and protection.
As ever, there is a relatively strict criteria in order to be able to qualify for a Woodland Creation Grant, but it may well be that if you are planning on planting areas of woodland on the farm, then it would seem prudent to check if your proposals qualify, or can be adapted to qualify, for the Woodland Creation Grant.
Continuing in a similar vein, we are aware that the RPA and Environment Agency will be holding a workshop to explain the funding available under the Water Resource Management aspect of the Countryside Productivity Scheme. The workshop currently planned is at Lincoln on the 10th October. To reserve a place at this workshop, please email: email@example.com. Dates for two more workshops in the West Midlands and the South of England are being planned and will be finalised soon. The deadline for applications to this scheme is the 2nd April 2018. For those who are not aware of the Water Resource Management Grants, these are grants to improve farm productivity through more efficient use of water for irrigation and to secure supplies for crop irrigation work by the construction of on-farm reservoirs. Grants are for a minimum of £35,000. Grants can cover up to 40% of the eligible costs of the project. Therefore, as the minimum grant is £35,000, the minimum total cost of a project would therefore be £87,500. Grant funding can help pay for construction of a water storage reservoir, abstraction point, pump and pipe works to build the reservoir, irrigation pump controls, underground water distribution main, water meter and equipment, best practice application equipment, such as boom or trickle irrigation, and software and sensors to optimise water application.
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