I was pleased to learn that the coveted task of writing February’s Ponderings had fallen to me, and the obvious topic to discuss is Countryside Stewardship, as Bletsoes’ Agricultural team eagerly await the RPA’s announcements expected to come later this month. We don’t anticipate that the scheme will vary significantly from previous years, so there shouldn’t be any great surprises when further details are released. It is well worth considering the options available to you now, as a well designed scheme can supplement your farms income and also assist in making long term improvements to farmland and farm yards.
Under both Higher Tier and Mid Tier schemes extensive Capital Grants are available in addition to the annual management options. The grants target specific issues on farm such as management of boundaries for which grants for hedge laying, stock proof fencing or stone wall restoration are available. The second focus of capital grants is to improve the water quality in high priority areas. Those eligible can seek a number of grants, examples include resurfacing gateways, concrete for water troughs, renewal of concrete yards, and erecting a building. If your farm is in a High Priority Water area then it is possible to apply for such works alongside a 5 year management scheme. Capital Grants are essentially uncapped, but must be proportional to the environmental benefits your scheme offers. The list of capital items available is extensive, so it is worth considering a Higher or Mid Tier application if there are improvements you would like to make to your farm.
Woodland Creation is the third area of Capital Grants and we are seeing that it is becoming increasingly popular as it is heralded by some as the answer to improving many environmental issues. Countryside Stewardship offers grants for all aspects of creating a new woodland, including planting trees, purchasing tree guards and even erecting deer fencing. For existing woodland there are stewardship options which make payments for carrying out management or restocking works. Woodland creation grants are available under a Mid Tier agreement alongside other grants and management options, or for those that only wish to plant new woodland a separate Woodland Creation Grant is available. The latter is open now for applications, and up to £8,000 per hectare can be claimed.
The Woodland Carbon Fund is also administered by the RPA and offers capital funding for the creation of new woodland for carbon sequestration. This scheme is most suitable for larger projects as a minimum of 10 hectares is required. New applications under the current round of the grant offers must be submitted by March 2021, but further rounds are expected to be open later this year.
The popular Productivity Small Grants Scheme has now closed, however the Government are expected to open the new Farming Equipment and Technology Fund in 2021, which we understand will work in a similar manner to the former scheme. For larger projects the Farming Transformation Fund, is expected to open for applications in 2021. This grant will assist with the cost of more substantial investments in equipment, technology or infrastructure, with the potential to transform business performance.
If you are interested in exploring the opportunities and possibly making an application under any of these schemes, please speak to a member of the Agricultural Team, as many of the schemes require careful planning, which should be started as soon as possible to ensure a competitive and well structured application can be submitted later this year when the deadlines roll around.
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