Farmers and land managers are being urged to take advantage of the current four Wildlife Offers available as part of DEFRA’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme, as the deadline to apply for an application pack looms.
According to the national property consultancy, Bruton Knowles, who are assisting with applications, many farmers and land managers remain unaware about the available four Wildlife Offers. These are simplified Countryside Stewardship agreements, which are designed to protect wildlife and preserve the natural environment. Consequently, many risk missing out on vital government grants as a result.
The four Wildlife Offers are currently open for application, and close on 31st July 2019. However, the deadline for requesting an application pack is 31st May 2019. Application packs can be applied for through the Rural Payment Agency website.
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.
Ben Compton, Associate and Rural Expert at Bruton Knowles whose team supports farmers and land managers with applications for rural funding says: “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.
He continues: “Bruton Knowles has managed numerous applications for farmers and land managers, and as such we are providing our top tips on how to effectively navigate the Wildlife Offer process. Our rural experts are also on hand to help those who simply don’t have the time to complete the application form, struggle with access to broadband or a computer, or would like more in-depth, tailored support.”
Bruton Knowles top tips for completing an application for a Wildlife Offer are:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Holdings with SSSIs, scheduled ancient monuments, existing other agri-environment schemes or very large holdings are not eligible for Wildlife Offers, only Mid Tier. Similarly, Mid Tier application packs must be applied for by 31st May 2019.
6. Typically, a Wildlife offer has options on 5 per cent of the holding – is all your holding productive land?
7. Capital grants are not available under Wildlife Offers.
8. 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.
As an independently-owned national property consultancy, Bruton Knowles has a large multi-disciplinary team. Highly experienced in sale and purchase, valuation, leasing and strategy, the team covers all key areas across commercial, rural and urban property, and has specialist expertise in utilities, public sector and social housing.
For more information about how Bruton Knowles can support your application, call 01452 880180