Farmers who couldn't finalise their applications for the 2024 Countryside Stewardship programme by Friday, September 15 still have a chance to participate.
The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have announced that those who initiated their applications before the cut-off date would continue to be eligible for the programme's benefits.
Last month, Defra extended the application period for the 2024 Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier agreements by an additional four weeks, ending on Friday 15 September. This extension aimed to provide farmers and landowners with more time to complete their online submissions.
According to Defra, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will assist those who either began their applications on 15 September or indicated land changes with the intent to apply, ensuring they have adequate time to finalise their submissions.
The extension has led to the receipt of over 600 new applications, bringing the total number of 2024 Countryside Stewardship applications to 6,000. This adds to the 33,000 agreements already in place across England for 2023, marking a 94% increase since 2020. The Countryside Stewardship scheme operates in conjunction with the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and landscape recovery initiatives.
Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary for Food and Farming, stated, "Our Countryside Stewardship scheme has been successful in enhancing food production, environmental protection, and farmers' profitability. That's why we extended the initial 2024 deadline and are committed to supporting those who began their applications in time."
Defra continues to adapt the Countryside Stewardship scheme based on farmer feedback. Enhancements include simplified application processes, increased payment rates, and more efficient administration. Future improvements are also planned, such as greater flexibility in application timelines and enhanced options for tenant farmers.
On a related note, the government recently confirmed that farmers with active Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 agreements will receive an accelerated payment, accounting for 25% of their annual agreement value, in the first month.
This decision was made in light of the current economic challenges, including inflation and rising costs.