Farmers are being urged to take advantage of the current four Wildlife Offers available as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme as the application deadline looms.
These are simplified Countryside Stewardship agreements, which are designed to protect wildlife and preserve the natural environment.
But many farmers and land managers 'remain unaware' about the available offers, and risk missing out on vital government grants as a result.
The offers consist of an Arable Offer, Lowland Offer, Mixed Offer and Upland Offer, and are designed to support wildlife by providing: sources of nectar and pollen for insect pollinators; winter food for seed-eating birds; improved habitats, especially for farmland birds and pollinators.
Each of the four offers has a set of options and requirements, with a wildlife benefit and payment rate.
If successful, farmers and land managers receive a five-year agreement with annual payments.
For example, introducing a nectar flower mix will net £511 per ha/year, similarly offering a winter bird mix will net £640 per ha/year and very low input grassland at £95 per ha/year.
The four Wildlife Offers are currently open for application and close on 31st July 2019.
However, property consultancy Bruton Knowles said it is 'very concerned' that farmers are either unaware of the offers or are put off from applying.
Ben Compton, Associate and Rural Expert said: “The four Wildlife Offers are a unique opportunity with the added advantage that unlike other similar schemes, they are non-competitive.
“However, we are very concerned that farmers and land managers are either unaware of the available funding, or are being put off from applying by previous schemes’ complicated application processes.”
Tips for completing an application
• Consider carefully the areas of the farm which aren’t currently being used productively.
• Think about how these could be maximised with regards to protecting wildlife or the environment. This may be for example, field corners, banks or wet areas unable to be cultivated.
• Keep it simple – you don’t need to over complicate your ideas as this will make day to day management a challenge e.g. having different types of margins with different closed periods in the same field.
• Beyond the minimum requirements of each offer, any additional options are paid for on a £/ha basis. Therefore as long as the minimum requirements are met, applications can include as many options as you like.
• Successful applications will have a 1st January 2020 start date and run until 31st December 2024. These offers are a five-year scheme so may be a secure, known income stream to help weather changes in Agricultural policy in the coming years.
• Holdings with SSSIs, scheduled ancient monuments, existing other agri-environment schemes or very large holdings are not eligible for Wildlife Offers, only Mid Tier.
• Typically, a Wildlife offer has options on 5 per cent of the holding – is all your holding productive land?
• Capital grants are not available under Wildlife Offers.
• Ensure you are signed up to the Rural Payments Service and have an SBI number. You can register online at Gov.UK Verify, or call the Rural Payments Helpline on 03000 200 301.