Farmers are encouraged to ensure Countryside Stewardship applications are accurate before submission or run the risk of grant refusal.
The deadline for requesting application packs for Mid-Tier and Water Capital Grants is 31 May, with applications needing to be submitted by 31 July.
A wide variety of land management options are available to choose from when applying for Mid Tier, allowing farmers to create a scheme that fits their business.
Water Grants offer up to £10,000 to complete works to improve water quality. To be eligible farmers need to be within a priority catchment and gain approval for the works from your local Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (CSFO).
However, changes in the application process means forms must be completed fully, including all relevant supporting evidence on submission, or farmers could risk having their application refused.
This is the first year that Countryside Stewardship applications will be handled by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) rather than Natural England.
Beth Hanson, rural professional at McCartneys, explains that farmers need to move quickly.
“In the past, Natural England have been quite flexible. For example, if farmers sent in an application with errors, or part of the form had been missed, they would contact the farmer and allow them to make corrections,” she said.
“However, we’ve been informed that the RPA are unlikely to provide this level of flexibility and therefore, any application which is not completed in full could be rejected.
“This is why it’s more important than ever to submit water tight applications. If you’re in any doubt, seek professional advice because a rejection could result in applicants losing out on the financial benefit for another 12 months.”
Farmers have also been told to make the most out of Mid-Tier and Water Capital Grants as they are only guaranteed in their current format for the next couple of years.
Ms Handson added: “We don’t have any steer on what’s going to replace these two grants and with the uncertainty of Brexit ahead, anything that can secure a guaranteed income stream could be highly beneficial to many farm businesses.
“This is why farmers should seriously consider applying to make the most of the benefits while they can.”