Top Ten Tips on Countryside Stewardship

With the new Countryside Stewardship Offer opening on the 15th of January, Soils & Arable Advisor, Paul Flynn has written down his top ten tips to making a successful application.

1. Order your Higher Tier application pack now

This must be requested by 9th March, with initial applications in before the 13th of April. The best way is to get started now! We currently estimate that around 100,000Ha of organic land is not in any kind of stewardship: representing a loss to the industry of up to £5 million pounds. It would be good to see more of this land under stewardship, with organic farmers rewarded for their investment in the environment.

2. Submit your application early

Some aspects are competitive and there is a limit on the total budget. We all know that this took a long time last year. And there will be delays, but let’s not be the one causing the hold-ups. Remember negotiation to make best use of your application may continue for some time, even to the end of August.  

3. Complete it clearly and accurately

Over half of last years’ applications were not signed, dated or had minor errors that put them to the back of the queue. Think of that civil servant, delighted by the clearly written and coherent application, well organised and matched to local priorities. One for the top of the pile! 

4. Make good use of all the organic management options

These are excluded from the competitive entry! Whilst every other applicant is making a prospective bid, yours is already marked for payment. Defra and Natural England are welcoming applications from organic farms. They appreciate the biodiversity you will naturally have on your farm and want to support you! There is the usual small print about limited total budget, but hopefully if you’ve read this far you’ve already got your application in!

5. Take advice on additional options

You can combine mid and higher tier with the organic management options, creating your own agreement and a fantastic habitat for the important species and habitats on your farm. There are quite a few hoops to jump through, though they are mainly to protect the tax payer.

6. Remember to tick the box!

On the application form, there is a question asking whether you would want to proceed with the organic element if the competitive options are not successful. This is for applicants to inform us whether they want to be offered the conversion/ management options if their other organic and non-organic choices are un-successful.

7. Repeat after me: “Local Environmental Management Options”

This should be the basis for informing your application. They are founded on good local knowledge of what needs help and where money is best spent. Together we can make the most of this support to boost habitats and associated wildlife. Each county is divided in to local areas: use this map to help you decide what to do. Select options and capital items that best match the environmental priorities of your area.

8. You must have management control of the land

That doesn’t mean that you have to own it, but you must have control over all of the activities needed to meet the requirements of your agreement. You must have this for the duration of your agreement and for any commitments that go beyond this period. This generally means having security of tenure for the full period of the agreement. If not, you must get a countersignature from your landlord as part of the application. It is your responsibility to check that your tenancy is suited to the agreement and that your agreement does not compromise your tenancy!

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