Technical Update July 2015

July 2015

Welcome to this edition of the Regulation
Technical Update prepared by the Farm
Consultancy Group.

Countryside Stewardship

This scheme, as published, is more accessible than originally anticipated. As ever there is more clarification to come but there is enough detail now to, at least, plan an application.

Registration
All applicants must be registered with the RPA under the new Basic Payment Scheme before they can apply for Countryside Stewardship. All applications in 2015 are on a pre-printed paper form supplied after phoning Natural England.

There are three main elements.
1 Mid Tier (MT): 5 year agreements for environmental improvements in the wider countryside;
2 Higher Tier (HT): 5+ year agreements for environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands where more complex management requires delivery body
support, speak to Natural England; and
3 Capital Grants: a range of 1-2 year grants for hedgerows and boundaries, improving water quality, developing plans, woodland creation (establishment), and tree
health.

Application window:
· Mid Tier (MT) – 01/07/2015 –30/09/2015
· Higher Tier (HT) – Expression of Interest to be submitted by 15/07/2015 (been extended)
All new Agreement Start Dates are 1st January 2016.

Current Agreement holders with an Entry Level Scheme expiring before 31st December 2015 can apply this year (they will/have receive/d a letter from NE). Those with an
agreement expiring after this date will need to wait to apply July-Sept 2016. Those with existing stewardship agreements can apply if they are planning on entering HT
from a HLS expiring in 2016.

Most elements of the scheme are competitive (except Organic), and applications will be scored. 

Unlike ELS/HLS it is no longer Whole Farm based but based upon the area occupied by
the selected Options which pay by quantity (£/ha or £/m etc)
3 Steps before applying for MT:
1. Check which National Character Area NCA) your farm is in https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-character-areaprofiles-data-for-local-decisionmaking/national-character-areaprofiles
2. Check the Statement of Priorities for your NCA https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/countryside-stewardshipstatements-of-priorities
3. Select relevant options www.gov.uk/guidance/countrysidestewardship-manual

Facilitation Funding
There is funding for cooperation of > 4 almost adjoining holdings/businesses covering at least 2,000ha Application March-May annually

Options
There is a 355 page Option supplement to the CSS Manual and 275 pages of Capital Options, including any management prescriptions. There is a website to narrow down the choices; www.gov.uk/countrysidestewardship-grants 

Chances of a successful application can be improved if it;
· is part of a facilitated group

· meets the requirements for the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package -a certain proportion of total farmed land needs to be under one of these packages' management options - >3% for Middle Tier and >5% for Higher Tier. Applications exceeding the 3% threshold will gain more points for the options but no extra additional points scored.

· includes options to improve water quality 

· endorsed by a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer - there are a number of capital items and options that can only be applied for if they have been endorsed by a CSFO

Options can overlap with BPS Greening EFA’s but there will be an income adjustment, usually sufficient to deter overlapping.

Option management will be more prescriptive than before; requiring record keeping and photographic evidence to support the application and annual claim.

Mapping

All CSS Options selected need to be within a registered RLR field parcel. Therefore if a capital item is chosen within a set of farm buildings, such as concrete yard renewal,
then that set of farm buildings must have it’s own RLR parcel number. When submitting an RLE1 to register these parcels you must highlight that it is for a CSS application and the RLR will prioritise processing your RLE1.

Farm Environmental Record
All MT, HT and Capital Grant applications require a FER covering any parcels which contain proposed options and capital items.

Organic Conversion
Not competitive
· Must be in 1st year of conversion at the start of the agreement
· Must not have been entered for, or received any payments in respect of, conversion by the applicant or the applicant’s business

Crops in ground on 1st January
Most crops which are in the ground at the start of an agreement (1 January) do not need to be destroyed to establish a chosen option, but can be managed and harvested
as normal farm crops. Some, however, may be subject to restrictions on their management from 1 January, for instance where the agreement requires that they must not receive any fertiliser, pesticide sprays or other inputs. This will be detailed in your agreement.

Capital Grants
Capital agreements can be developed for:
· hedgerows and boundaries (open early 2016 for applications);
· woodland management plans (open all year for applications);
· woodland tree health, restoration and improvement (open all year for applications);
· woodland improvement capital (open July to September for applications);
· woodland improvement – infrastructure (open July to September for applications);
· woodland creation (open February to April for applications);
· water capital (open July to September for applications) and
· feasibility studies and implementation plans (open early 2016 for year round applications).

This technical update is prepared in good faith and every effort has been made to ensure accuracy. However, all responsibility for actions taken lies with the recipient. Further professional advice should be sought as appropriate.

Posted in Technical Update.