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New Countryside Stewardship Scheme
As part of recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a new scheme for rewarding farmers for environmental management has been launched. Defra's £900 million scheme replaces Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship (ELS and HLS).
There are three main elements - Higher Tier (similar to the current HLS); Mid Tier (which will replace ELS) and a lower tier of capital grants, including the Hedgerows and Boundaries Capital Grant. Capital grants for projects to reduce water pollution and for woodland creation will be available in 2015 and environmental management agreements will be available to all eligible farmers, land managers, land owners and tenants in England from January 1, 2016. These agreements will mostly be for five years and applications will be scored to check whether an agreement can be offered.
The Higher Tier is for the most environmentally important sites and woodlands. These will usually be in places that need complex management, such as habitat restoration, woodland creation or tailored measures for priority species.
The Mid Tier aims to address widespread environmental issues, such as reducing diffuse water pollution or improving the farmed environment for farmland birds and pollinators.
Countryside Stewardship will be more targeted than the scheme it replaces. It is expected to cover approximately 40% of farmland in England, compared with the 70% coverage achieved by ELS and HLS, meaning many farmers will be unable to access the grants.
Farmers will in many cases be required to do more to earn payments than they do under ELS). This is partly the result of the introduction of compulsory environmental measures or 'greening' under the new CAP for any farmer wishing to receive a farm support payment, and the requirement to ensure there is no ‘double funding’ for the same measures.
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