RPA announces changes to payment rates in Countryside Stewardship Scheme

Written by Iain Hoey from Farm Business

The Rural Payments Agency Announce Changes to Payment Rates in Countryside Stewardship

The RPA has announced a significant rise, of 30% on average, in the payment rates available in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, with the Government reportedly hoping to encourage more applications to the scheme as a result of the amended rates.T

The new payment rates also reflect some of the cost increases being felt by farmers who deliver environmental benefits on their land.

Here David Morley, head of conservation and environment for H&H Land & Estates highlighted that the payment increases will not only apply to new agreements starting in 2023 but will also be applied to all existing agreements that started on or before 1st January 2022.

As with all Government announcements, he added, the devil is in the detail: “Some options see a huge rise in payments whilst, for others, payments will actually be reduced. Thankfully, any reductions will only apply to new agreements starting in 2023 and will not be applied to existing agreements.”

One of the biggest percentage increases will be felt by upland farmers. The payment rate for option GS5 – Low Input Grassland Management in SDA – rises significantly from £16 per ha to £71 per ha.

“For upland farmers that can manage their land with few inputs, this could finally make Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship worth applying for,” said Mr Morley.

Option UP2 – Rough Grazing for Birds – is also increased from £88 to £110 per ha, while the Higher Tier UP3 Moorland Management option rises from £43 to £51 per ha.

However, he pointed out there are reductions being made under the scheme, with the GS15 Haymaking Supplement, often partnered with GS5 in traditionally managed upland hay meadows, to be reduced from £85 to £37 per ha.

Payments in the SP8 Native Breeds at Risk Supplement (Higher Tier) will rise by over 50% from £94 to £142 per ha. However, he pointed out that the standard SP6 Cattle Grazing Supplement, which can be used in conjunction with a variety of Mid and Higher Tier options, falls from £45 to £39 per ha for new agreements.

Organic farmers will see that most payment rates for organic management are significantly increased, particularly those for enclosed rough grazing, unimproved grassland, and rotational land. The exception is the payment rate for improved grassland, which is halved from £40 to £20 per ha.

For farmers with arable land, here are increases of 10-17% in many of the options, including AB1 – Nectar Flower Mix, AB16 – Autumn-sown Bumblebird Mix and AB8 – Flower Rich Margins.

In contrast, the standard AB2 – Over-wintered Stubbles option is reduced by nearly a third to £58 per ha, and AB14 Low Input Cereals is also reduced by £30 per ha.

Finally the AB13 – Brassica Fodder Crop option will no longer be available for new agreements starting in 2023.

“This is probably due to issues with soil erosion that can arise if this option is located in the wrong place, but it is disappointing, nonetheless,” commented Mr Morley.

He added: “Overall, the changes to CS payment rates seem to be a positive step and will hopefully encourage more farmers to look at Countryside Stewardship to help them farm in an environmentally sustainable way. As always, however, it is critical to get the right advice for your farm business. Please contact our specialist team of Farm Environmental Advisors at H&H Land & Estates if you would like to discuss how the Scheme might work for you.”

The full list of changes to payment rates can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/countryside-stewardship-revenue-payment-rates-from-1-january-2022/countryside-stewardship-payment-rates-for-revenue-options-from-1-january-2022

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