For the last few years the two main agri environment schemes available to farmers (Mid-Tier and Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship) have proved to be overly complex and unpopular. In addition, the ‘competitive’ nature of the application process means that a lot of work is required to complete the application with no guarantee of getting an agreement.

In a welcome development, Natural England have now launched four new schemes to address the low application rates seen in recent years. The new schemes offer a guaranteed 5-year agreement providing applicants can meet the minimum criteria. There is a shortened list of management options and a much-simplified application process compared to the Mid or Higher Tier schemes. At last!

The four new schemes available are as follows:

  • Lowland Grazing Offer (request paper application pack by 31st May 2018)
  • Mixed Farming Offer (request paper application pack by 31st May 2018)
  • Upland Offer (request paper application pack by 31st May 2018)
  • Arable Offer (online only application – request pre-application pack by 31st May 2018)

A few things to watch out for:

  • You can’t apply if you have an existing older style Environmental Stewardship scheme that continues into 2019.
  • You can’t apply if your farm contains a Site of Special Scientific Interest or a Scheduled Monument.
  • None of the management options applied for can overlap with any BPS Ecological Focus Areas.

You will need to pick one of the four schemes depending on the nature of your farm and what land you want to include. The application deadline for all of theses schemes is 31st July 2018 with agreements starting on 1st January 2019. Each scheme offers a different selection of management options to pick from and there should be a good variety to suit most farms. The options include:

CodeOptionPayment Rate
AB1Nectar flower mix£511/ha – £206/acre
AB4Skylark plots£18 (£9 per plot, min. 2 plots per ha).
AB5Nesting plots for lapwing and stone curlew£524/ha – £212/acre
AB6Enhanced overwinter stubble£436/ha – £176/acre
AB8Flower-rich margins and plots£539/ha – £218/acre
AB9Winter bird food£640/ha – £259/acre
AB11Cultivated areas for arable plants£532/ha – £215/acre
AB12Supplementary winter feed for farmland birds (per tonne for every 2ha of AB9)£632/ha – £256/acre
GS1Take field corners out of production (outside SDA)£365/ha – £148/acre
GS2Permanent grassland with very low inputs (outside SDAs)£95/ha – £38/acre
GS3Ryegrass seed-set as winter/spring food for birds£331/ha – £134/acre
GS4Legume and herb-rich swards£309/ha – £125/acre
GS17Lenient grazing supplement£44/ha – £18/acre
SW14m to 6m buffer strip on cultivated land£353/ha – £143/acre
BE3 Management of hedgerows£8/100m
WT1Buffering in-field ponds and ditches in improved grassland£201/ha – £81/acre
WT2Buffering in-field ponds and ditches on arable land£501/ha – £203/acre