CONSERVATION

Month end deadline for Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship applications

Although applications for Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship closed on 5th May farmers interested in applying for the Mid-Tier scheme still have until 31st July to request an application pack. Mid-Tier focuses on less targeted conservation improvements with wider benefits, such as improving condition of key habitats for pollinators and farmland birds or reducing diffuse water pollution. Agreements run for five years and have varied management requirements, depending on the bespoke options chosen by the farmer or landowner.

The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) are on hand to support farmers with their applications. Becky Hughes, a farm conservation advisor from FWAG SouthWest is encouraging all farmers to consider applying. FWAG SouthWest seeks to support, enthuse and inspire farmers to value the environmental assets on their land and use them to secure sustainable and profitable businesses for the future. Here, Becky outlines just some of the potential benefits:

Proven benefits for wildlife

The management requirements for countryside stewardship are detailed but this is because they are evidence-based and proven to get results. If you find options that you are confident you can deliver, you know that

you will be having a positive impact on helping wildlife on and around your farm, protecting water, soil and landscape in the process. You may already be doing management that is similar to the requirements, so why not improve your effectiveness and be rewarded for it?

Opportunity to make capital improvements

The Mid-Tier scheme comes with the opportunity to apply for up to two years of capital grants. If you are in a high priority area for water quality (Catchment Sensitive Farming) you can get help towards improving yard layout to reduce pollution. But even if you are not in a target catchment, you can still get grants towards hedge and wall repair, stream fencing, livestock troughs and more. Why not take advantage of this money whilst it still exists to improve your farm infrastructure?

Take a fresh look at your farm

Your landscape has the potential to work for food production and provide wildlife benefits at the same time. Moving into a new agri-environment scheme is a good time to review your land capability and efficiency, and find a better use for less productive, marginal, risky land. Do you have fields prone to runoff and soil erosion? Are there wet fields that require more work than they are worth? Have you been considering incorporating fallow or cover crops into your management?

We have until 31st July to Apply for Mid-Tier Countryside #Stewardship | @Benjy_Eagle Click To Tweet

A Mid-Tier Scheme can give you the means to tackle these issues. The information you get through your application may also reveal facts about your farm that you didn’t know – archaeological features, valuable habitats in the surrounding countryside, native wildlife species that rely on your farm.

Demonstrate your environmental credentials

The farming sector will come under increasing scrutiny in the future, both from government and from our customers. Being part of a recognised agri-environment scheme is a simple way to signal your commitment to protecting our landscape and wildlife, and running an efficient and sustainable business. The record-keeping requirements of Mid-Tier, whilst they may seem onerous at first, can also be used to help you monitor and manage your farm performance and satisfy other inspections such as farm assurance.

“You know that you will be having a positive impact on helping wildlife on and around your farm”

 

If all of this, plus of course five years of guaranteed income, does not persuade you to allocate some time and effort into submitting an application, but you would still like some advice and guidance on improving the environmental performance of your farm and reducing your pollution impact, then follow the Campaign for the Farmed Environment at www.cfeonline.org.uk or of course contact one of our FWAG SW Advisers for independent expert advice on managing your farmed environment.

For more information about FWAG visit | www.fwagsw.org.uk – or call 01823 660684

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Ben Eagle

Conservation Editor Ben Eagle runs the regular 'Meet the Farmers' podcast series and writes at thinkingcountry.com

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