Grants for converting and maintaining organic land - England
Organic funding in England
The funding application window for England’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CS) is now open for 2023.
The CS provides funding for farmers and land managers in England to make environmental improvements. This includes financial support for farmers to convert to organic and manage their farms to organic standards.
Payment rates are up by an average 10% for ongoing activity and 48% for one-off grants, and applicants have three years to complete and submit claims.
Get to the information you need:
CS is part of the government’s Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) - an umbrella term for three new schemes: Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery.
ELMS came into effect from 2022 and is expected to stretch to 2025. Organic Farmers can qualify for the highest level of payments through various conversion and maintenance schemes, listed below.
After 2024, farmers will be able to leave their existing countryside stewardship/environmental stewardship agreements without penalty, if they wish to join the new schemes. So this shouldn’t be a deterrent for applying for available funding or extending existing agreements.
Applications for Higher-tier agreements are now open, with contracts starting from 1st January 2024. Different types of agreements, such as mid-tier, higher-tier and capital claims are all different options under the CS. Revenue options are paid annually while capital claim grants are one off payments upon customer completion of work as set out in a capital agreement.
The application window specifically for Higher Tier closes 28th April. Mid-tier and Wildlife Offer agreements are expected to open next month.
Sustainable Farming Incentive
Applications for SFI are now open for 2023. There is no application date or deadline, meaning you can apply when it suits you. Once an agreement has been accepted it will come into effect on the 1st of the following month.
Farmers can also apply for Capital Grants. Applications can be submitted at any time with submission of an agreement (proposal of the work they wish to carry out). If the agreement is accepted, the business can then choose when and what they want to do. Claims can only be made in the first 2 years, and upto a maximum of 3-months from the agreement offer end date.
Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery
Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery are currently being piloted, before launch in 2024. We will communicate details about this scheme when available.
5-year agreements are available for organic conversion and maintenance. For organic conversion agreements, higher conversion payments will be paid for up to 2 years for most crops, with subsequent years paid at the management rate.
Maintenance agreements are also available for farmers who already manage organic land and will be paid at the maintenance rate for the full five years.
Higher-tier dates (encompassing a range of options and capital items that together help to deliver a broad range of environmental benefits)
- 7th Feb, 2023: CS Higher Tier applications open
- 28th Apr, 2023: CS Higher Tier Final paper/online application deadline
For more information on key dates, use the Rural Payments Agency Applicant's Guide
The application process has been made more straightforward this year, with much of the administrative burden being reduced, making the process quicker and easier. For example, applicants can declare online that they are fulfilling the obligations of their agreement, removing the need for completion of an annual claim form. Agreement holders have also been given longer periods of time to complete capital works within their agreement.
- You must apply for the Countryside Stewardship funding directly with the Rural Payments Agency.
- You must also register with an organic certification body such as Soil Association Certification.
- You can register with an organic certification body either before or after applying for Countryside Stewardship funding.
And there are different ways to get started, depending on which step you take first:
- Register with a certification body like Soil Association Certification before applying for Countryside Stewardship funding: You must complete a conversion plan, which must be approved and signed off by an organic certification body like Soil Association Certification. We can help - Get in touch with our expert farming team to discuss how we can support you.
- Register with a certification body like Soil Association Certification after applying for Countryside Stewardship funding: If you want to apply for funding via the Rural Payments Agency before registering and having had a Conversion Plan approved by a certification body, you must complete a Viability Plan, which must be submitted to the Rural Payments Agency along with your funding application. If you use a Viability Plan you must get an approved and signed-off Conversion Plan from your organic certification body and have started conversion before the agreement start date of 1st Jan 2023.
Existing CS agreement holders should contact rural payments directly, and can do so via email: email@example.com.
Our expert farming certification team can talk you through how organic conversion and certification could work on your farm.
Certifying with Soil Association Certification
If you choose to certify with Soil Association Certification, we offer discounted conversion fees to support you through your transition period. Find out more about the steps you can take to prepare your farm for organic conversion and the application process and fees.Why certify with us?
Speak to our team
I’ve been encouraged by the support that I’ve received from the technical and certification teams – certifying with them has enabled me to meet the high organic farming standards whilst farming in a practical and realistic way.Joe Rolfe