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Farmers to be paid more for protecting the environment

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Some good news to start the year; Agri-environment payments have been increased - including a near doubling of hedgerow payments in new schemes.

The Government announced today that annual revenue options and capital item payment rates in Countryside Stewardship and payments under the Environment Land Management scheme have been increased to create a more supportive and fairer system and encourage greater uptake of the schemes. This will come as welcome news to many during a time of rising costs.

Within Countryside Stewardship, the revenue option payment rates have seen an average increase of 10% with a rise in the value of most options. For example, the winter bird food option which was previously paid at £640/ha has increased to £732/ha and the two-year sown fallow mixture has increased from £569/ha to £593/ha. The changes in payment rate will automatically be applied to all agreements, new and existing, from 1 January 2023.

Capital item payments have also seen a significant increase, reflecting the increased costs of materials. On average these payments have increased by almost half. The payment for fencing has increased by around £2 per metre, concrete yard renewal by £6 per square metre and new livestock or machinery tracks now pays at £44.63/m rather than £33/m. With the drive to encourage habitat creation, the payment for new hedgerow planting has almost doubled from £11.60/m to £22.97/m and gapping up has increased from £9.50/m to £17.22/m. However, unlike the revenue options, the new hedgerow payments will only apply to new schemes and not existing ones.

Having sensed hesitancy amongst the farming community to jump into the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) whilst things are still in development, the government has announced a new management payment that will form part of the scheme. This new payment pays £20 per ha of land included in the agreement up to 50 hectares. This means farmers in SFI could receive up to £1000 a year on top of the standard payment rates to cover administrative costs of the scheme and make it more financially attractive to smaller businesses.

Capital and annual payments within the England Woodland Creation Offer and Tree Health Pilot are also being revised and changes will be made in February. The changes include an increase on the cap of standard cost items that can be applied for. This will be increased from £8,500 to £10,200. Maintenance payments will also increase from £300 per hectare per year to £350 per hectare per year. The payments increase will automatically be applied to active agreements and those being processed.

With the government taking a step forward in offering greater support and investment in the farming industry, you should be encouraged to take advantage of the funding available and maximise what you can deliver for the environment. Each farm is unique and our experienced team of advisers are on hand to discuss the best way to take schemes forward for your business – contact one of us now for a chat or consider joining FWAG East for free year-round advice, a farm advice visit and other membership benefits.

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