Whilst there has been a great deal of information published about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)and how it will work with Greening this autumn, until now we haven’t heard much about the changes to the other sources of funding that have previously been available through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Essentially the Basic Payment Scheme funding comes from what are known as “Pillar 1” funds. In addition to “Pillar 1” we also have “Pillar 2” funds administered by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) which cover the other schemes that we have been familiar with such as ELS, HLS and woodland grants. These schemes are also undergoing major changes and restructuring the results of which could leave farmers and landowners in limbo over future funding.

So where have we got to with Pillar 2 funds?

All schemes under the RPDE such as ELS, HLS, OELS and the English Woodland Grant Scheme are now closed to new applications. Existing schemes will continue as they are for their remaining term (although there may be some complications that need addressing as a result of “Double Funding” with the Greening measures under the BPS scheme).

Once these schemes finish there may be an opportunity to apply for the new “Countryside Stewardship Scheme” (formally known as NELMS). In depth details of the CSS are beginning to be released and we can now report the following:

  • CSS will encompass all the previous schemes such as the woodland grants and Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme under one scheme umbrella.
  • A further £900m of funding is available for the new scheme on top of the existing £2bn already committed to existing environmental schemes.
  • The scheme will be competitive and targeted – ie. agreements will be awarded to the applications delivering the most environmental benefits in the most favourable areas. The key priorities are Biodiversity and Water Quality.
  • The scheme has 3 tiers:
  • Higher Tier(similar to HLS)
  • Mid Tier (similar to ELS)
  • Lower Tier – one off capital grants including up to £5,000 per applicant under the <“Hedgerow and Boundaries Capital Grant”.
  • There will be a staged introduction of grants in 2015:
    • Water Capital Grants” of up to £10,000 per holding – Only available in CSF areas in 2015. Applications planned from 2nd March – 30th April and completion by 29th January 2016. Rolled out further from 2016.
    • Woodland Creation Grants” – Planned from February 2015 – minimum total planted area of 3ha
    • Facilitation Funding” – to help others work cooperatively to deliver CSS across larger areas. Must me at least 4 holdings covering in excess of 2,000ha.
  • Multi-annual agreements under the Countryside Stewardship will commence from January 2016 with an application window in June to September 2015; Appraisal in October 2015: Agreement offers in November to December 2015.
  • The Capital Grants application window will be February to April 2016 with agreements starting from June 2016.
  • The CSS will include options for the recently announced “Bee and Pollinator Strategy” which will come under the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package. The use (not payment) of these options will be voluntary but applications that include these options will be scored more highly. It is anticipated Higher Tier applications should have coverage of 5-10% of the land and Mid Tier of 3-5% of the land for these options.

Other than the CSS we understand that there will be £140m available to provide support for farming and forestry businesses and this is likely to be similar to the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme we have seen previously.

What can I do now?

There is not a great deal that can be done now as the finer details on the schemes are yet to be published. However it appears that there are definitely some grants of interest that will become available in 2015 with the mainstream CSS starting in earnest in 2016.