Posted on 29th April 2022

Countryside Stewardship Agreement: Take time to consider your options

If the Rural Payments Agency has recently offered you a mirror agreement as your Countryside Stewardship Agreement from 2018 is coming to an end, don’t be hasty, as considering your options could be wise.

As the name suggests, the mirror agreement will see your current agreement start again in January 2023.

As things will have undoubtedly changed in the last four years, we are advising all of our clients to take a moment to review their circumstances. There may be an opportunity to remove some options and add others into the agreement, such as capital works.

Environmental Stewardship Agreements ending this year will also attract a 12-month extension offer from the Rural Payments Agency. Again, we advise clients to look into the Countryside Stewardship agreement as it could be a better option.

Like previous years, the Countryside Stewardship Scheme comprises three components: the Higher Tier, Mid-Tier and Capital Grants.

Higher Tier
The Higher Tier scheme is for land that offers significant conservation gains. It is primarily focused on farms coming out of Higher-Level Environmental Stewardship agreements and farms with high priority habitats; such s moorland and woodland.

If you’ve received an offer of a 12-month extension to your Higher-Level Environmental Stewardship agreement, we recommend looking at the Higher Tier to see if it is a better option for you as payment rates in several higher tier options are higher. You need to be quick, as initial applications need to be submitted by 29th April.

The Mid-Tier focuses on delivering environmental gains at a landscape scale across the wider countryside through 5-year agreements. Applications can include a 2-year Capital Grants programme for hedge or wall restoration, water quality, and water capital items, such as roofing middens and silage pits. A new opportunity for Mid-Tier agreement holders is the option to apply for a second two-year capital grant programme once their initial programme is claimed.

Unlike previous years, Mid-Tier applications can be completed online in 2022. Farm Environment Record and Options Maps must be completed separately and emailed to the RPA.

Several Mid-Tier options have improved payment rates making it worthy of consideration.

Applications for agreements starting on the 1st January 2023 need to be submitted on or before 29th July 2022 or 20th May if CSFO endorsement is needed for water capital items.

Capital Grants
This scheme, which is now open, has a rolling application window. It’s a first-come, first-served grant, so the scheme ends when the money has been allocated.

As with the Mid-Tier, applications can be made online, though the rates have not been increased.

As long as money is not awarded twice for the same project, farmers in a Higher-Level Environmental Stewardship (HLS) agreement can also apply for a capital grant to restore or plant hedges, restore dry stone walls, watercourse fencing and water capital and air quality grants.

If you need help deciding whether or not to accept a mirror agreement and want to assess your options, please don’t hesitate to call Ray Philips on 01522 696, email or fill in our contact form.

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Hallmere Office, Meadow Lane,
South Hykeham, Lincolnshire LN6 9PF