OPINION: Farmers should grasp this timely opportunity to secure grant cash

Charlotte Webster, senior rural surveyor at Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural

Charlotte Webster is an associate and senior rural surveyor at Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural - Credit: Arnolds Keys

With EU subsidies being phased out, East Anglian farmers should take advantage of improved grants for capital works including planting hedgerows and protecting water quality says Charlotte Webster, senior rural surveyor at Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural.

Applications are now open for the Countryside Stewardship Capital Grant Scheme (CGS), a programme of standalone capital grants which replace the “hedgerows and boundaries grant” and “water capital grant” from previous years.

The application window opened earlier this month, and closes at the end of April. 

The options in this year’s programme have been expanded, with 67 items in three broad groups of capital items: boundaries, trees and orchards, water quality and air quality. 

Those 67 items include planting hedges, installing fences and gates to protect environmental features, and works to farmyards such as replacing concrete, gutters and downpipes.

Planting hedges in particular has not previously been available and is already proving popular with farmers in the region. 

The maximum grant has increased dramatically from £10,000 to £60,000, with a £20,000 limit on each of the three groups.

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CGS agreements are a shorter-term commitment lasting just two years, and it looks like they will start once the agreement is made, rather than applicants having to wait until January 1, 2022. This is good news for those wanting to get on with the capital works this year.

The eligibility criteria have also been expanded this year – those with ELS/HLS (Entry / Higher Level Stewardship) agreements, CS Wildlife Offers, and in some cases CS Mid or Higher Tier agreements can apply, which is a change from previous years. 

Although the application window closes at the end of April, one important deadline is Friday March 19.

For those interested in any items requiring input from their Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer, forms and evidence needs to be submitted for their approval by this date in order to meet the April deadline.

We perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that the Rural Payments Agency has set the deadline for applications of April 30 – just two weeks before the deadline for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

With this in mind we would urge anyone interested in the scheme to speak to their advisors sooner rather than later. 

With the phase-out of BPS due to start taking effect this year, seizing opportunities for grant funding is important – every little helps.

Whilst the new scheme introduces some welcome changes, the evidence needed at both the application and claim stages remains. Getting expert advice is vital to ensure an application is accepted this time around.

  • Charlotte Webster is associate and senior rural surveyor at Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural.   

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