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Stewardship changes to leave year-long gap

Date Published: 06/09/2013

Changes to the regime for environmental stewardship schemes in England are in the pipeline for 2014/15 but it has been revealed that there is likely to be a 12-month gap in agreements for the country’s farmers.

Some doubt and confusion still hangs over what the arrangements will be, but indications from Natural England are that England will lag the rest of Europe by at least 12 months in implementing the new system.

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In light of the looming complexity and confusion surrounding the issue, Organic Farmers & Growers has prepared a briefing for its English licensees, sharing what information we have been able to glean to-date. Not all of the information is necessarily fixed and some changes may be expected, but licensees should prepare along the lines outlined in the information below.

As far as we can ascertain so far, these issues will not apply in Wales and are unlikely to affect Scotland.

OF&G Advisory Note to English Licensees

With regard to stewardship schemes following the recent discussions on CAP reform we think that it is important to share what we know at this point with you all. Natural England (NE) have told us that the OELS will continue in 2014 for new agreements and renewals.

BUT all will need to get their applications in to Natural England by 1 September 2014 for schemes due to start December 2014 and schemes due earlier must get their applications in earlier – NE require three months before a farmer’s start date to process the application. So, 1 September is the very last date to get an application in before the changes come in.

In 2015 all new schemes in the EU such as the UK’s New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) are due to start 1 Jan 2015 across the European Union and it will be 1 Jan each year from then on. However, the UK won’t have all of it’s applications in to start 1 Jan 2015 and so Defra will, instead, start 1 Jan 2016.

It is therefore likely that there will be a funding gap for agreements ending after 1 September 2014 until Defra begin the new round on 1 January 2016.

Farmers already in an agreement due to carry over that period will, we have been told, continue as normal.

BUT all of this is still subject to change. Greening measures and modulation amounts have not yet been fully decided at Defra and so budgets have not been decided or allocated.

We have been told that there will be limits on the amounts of money available under any stewardship scheme and so there will be target areas with regard to acceptance of scheme applications, such as diverse water pollution. NE say the take up of schemes has been around 70% of the land in England. We think from what we have been told there will be a reduction in the amount of land targeted for cover under these schemes.

According to the Organic Research Centre this issue will not apply in Wales. The new scheme will open in Wales in 2015 and all agreement holders have been offered short term extensions to the end of 2014 so they can join the new scheme without a break when it does open. And it is thought that similar arrangements are under consideration in Scotland.

Links to further information from Defra and Natural England:

http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/developments.aspx

http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/scheme-development-bulletin-august-2013_tcm6-36365.pdf

http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/qa-es-uniform-start-dates_tcm6-34958.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cap-reform-in-england-status-report-on-direct-payments

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cap-reform-in-england-status-report-on-the-new-rural-development-programme

If you have any doubts, any comments or any queries on these developments please contact Natural England either through your advisor or by contacting Natural England directly at their Crewe office on 0300 060 2922.