Today Defra announced the allocation of £2.5 million in the sixth round of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund. The application window opens in December 2021, following the continued uptake of the scheme by groups of farmers and landowners looking to pool their knowledge and encourage collaboration and peer-to-peer learning.
To apply, groups must submit plans showing how they will work together and share knowledge to protect and enhance their local environment in line with local Countryside Stewardship priorities. Successful groups will also offer training, support and advice to applicants for agri-environment schemes.
This year’s fund includes support for new environmental priorities such as the improvement of air quality through slurry removal, the reduction of ammonia emissions, tree planting and managing beaver activity on land. According to the latest evaluation of the scheme, it plays a significant role in fostering and strengthening an engaged, collaborative and environmentally aware farming community.
Farming minister Victoria Prentis said: “By getting involved in Countryside Stewardship, farmers and landowners alike can play a crucial role in supporting our efforts to improve the environment and create cleaner, greener landscapes.
“With today’s announcement, we intend to provide sufficient time for potential groups to form and think about their objectives and local priorities, ahead of the fund opening in December. I encourage all interested individuals to get involved.”
Rural Payments Agency chief executive Paul Caldwell said: “I’m pleased that we can continue to provide farmers and landowners the opportunity to amplify the long-term environmental benefits brought by the Countryside Stewardship schemes through the Facilitation Fund.
“As part of our commitment to a successful agricultural transition to newer schemes, we will continue to deliver schemes that people can enter now. We are looking to simplify these where we can and with this round of funding, we will be refreshing the guidance to participants to make it clearer and easier to access the fund. We would encourage uptake from new and existing groups which will support the delivery of large-scale environmental improvement in their local areas.”
Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said: “I am pleased that a further round of the Facilitation Fund has been announced today. Last month Natural England published an evaluation report of the fund which demonstrated how the new, strong connections between group members facilitated by the fund have enabled coordinated action to restore and manage habitat at a scale capable of encouraging environmental recovery – boosting natural resilience for wildlife, farming and livelihoods.”
To date, funding has been approved for 139 groups, totalling 3,800 members and this new round is expected to invest in more than 30 additional groups.
Applications will be invited from December, with a closing date of the 19th of January 2022.
For more information go to www.gov.uk