Extra support to complete Countryside Stewardship applications
15 Sep 2023 03:33 PM
Farmers will have additional time to complete their Countryside Stewardship 2024 applications as long as applications were started by Friday 15 September.
Farmers will have additional time to complete their Countryside Stewardship 2024 applications as long as applications were started by the deadline of Friday 15 September, the government has confirmed today, meaning any farmer struggling to meet the deadline will still be able to benefit from the scheme.
Following feedback from farmers, last month the application window for 2024 Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier agreements was extended by four weeks to 15 September to give more time for farmers and landowners to submit their applications online.
For all farmers and landowners who started their application by this deadline or who submitted land changes with the intention to apply, the Rural Payments Agency will support them to ensure they have sufficient time to complete these.
Since the deadline was extended, over 600 further applications have been received, bringing the total number of Countryside Stewardship 2024 applications to 6,000. This builds on the 33,000 Countryside Stewardship agreements successfully in place across England for 2023 - a 94% increase in since 2020.
Countryside Stewardship runs alongside the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Landscape Recovery schemes. Applications for the new and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 will open for applications next week on 18 September, with thousands of farmers already registering their interest.
Food and Farming Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:
I want as many farmers as possible to be able to sign up to our successful Countryside Stewardship scheme which is boosting food production, protecting the planet, and supporting farmers to run profitable businesses.
This is why I extended the initial deadline for Countryside Stewardship 2024 and am making sure that anyone who started their application by the deadline will be given the time and support to complete this.
The government continues to listen to feedback to ensure its farming schemes are delivering in the best possible way for farmers.
Improvements to the Countryside Stewardship scheme have included increasing payment rates on both revenue and capital items; simplifying and improving options to make them more workable on the ground; and making administration around applications and payments more efficient.
Further improvements to the system are also in train, including greater flexibility over when farmers can apply and how they manage their agreements, with improved access for tenant farmers and increased access to Higher Tier options and agreements; and the introduction of Countryside Stewardship Plus to encourage the right things being done in the right places, enable local join-up to deliver bigger and better results and facilitate testing of innovative payment mechanisms such as payment by results.
Farmers are able to be in Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farming Incentive at the same time as long as the actions are compatible, and they are not being paid for the same action twice.
On Wednesday, the government confirmed that farmers who have a live Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 (SFI) agreement before the end of the year will receive an accelerated payment - worth 25% of the annual value of their agreement - in the first month of their agreement, helping with cashflow and ensuring SFI works for farm businesses.
The SFI has been expanded and made more flexible in response to farmers’ feedback – with no cap being placed on the number of farmers who can enter. It will pay farmers for taking actions that support food production, farm productivity and resilience, while protecting the environment. Thousands of farmers are set to benefit from the new accelerated payments this year.