• New in 2018, four new Countryside Stewardship (CS) offers will be introduced for farmers and land managers to boost biodiversity and help protect and enhance farmland and the countryside.  Significant improvements have been made to the scheme to make it simpler and easier for farmers and land managers to apply.

      Pollen and nectar plots are a key part of the new Countryside Stewardship Offers © Des Sussex

      The 4 new Offers – Online Arable Offer, Lowland Grazing Offer, Upland Offer and Mixed Farming Offer – will provide tailored options covering the full range of different farm types, so farmers and land managers can deliver environmental benefits no matter where they are or what they farm.  The Offers will support wildlife by creating:

      ·         sources of nectar and pollen for insect pollinators

      ·         winter food for seed-eating birds

      ·         improved habitats, especially for farmland birds and pollinators

      Paperwork for the new offers is quicker and easier to get through, due to streamlined evidence checks and shorter application forms designed to help save farmers valuable time. The scheme is also non-competitive, meaning that all farmers who meet the eligibility requirements can get a 5 year agreement to deliver as few as 3 options, or as many as 7 up to 14, depending on the offer applied for.  Each Offer has a set of options and minimum requirements. These requirements must be met to be eligible for funding. Each option has a payment rate and a specific benefit for wildlife.

      Wild bird seed mixtures provide winter seed food for farmland birds © Hayley New

      The changes have been made to help more farmers get back into agri-environment schemes, with options such as the popular nectar flower mix which many farmers delivered under the ELS schemes available to apply for in the new CS offers.

      These new offers will complement the existing Higher Tier as well as the Mid Tier offer which has been enhanced and will continue to be available, supporting agreements delivering organics, historic, water quality, wet grassland and traditional orchards.

      Application packs are available until 31st May 2018, and the deadline for applications is 31st July 2018.  To receive an application pack, contact Natural England on 0208 026 1089 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk.