Agri-environment schemes in England are currently closed for application, both entry level (ELS) and higher level (HLS). This is as a result of the fact that the current Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) comes to a close at the end of this year. The new programme will not start until 1 January 2015.
Here we give an overview of what will happen to schemes during 2014.
The new Rural Development Programme (RDP) will not start until 2015. In 2014, Natural England wants to offer a package of RDP support in the transition period between programmes that reflects the move to a more targeted funding approach in the new programme and avoids building up excessive commitments into the new programme. The detailed rules, however, have yet to be agreed at the EU level about what will be permissible in 2014.
Funding will continue in 2014 for existing agreements that continue beyond 2013 and new agreements signed up in 2013.
For 2014, Natural England has been pressing the EU Commission to agree transition measures, which allow it to maintain its capacity to support CAP measures with minimum disruption for agreement holders.
Although the rules have yet to be agreed about the actions that Natural England will be able to support in 2014, it wants to give customers clarity now about what it aims to deliver in 2014.
The plan is to deliver:
- About £26m per year of new HLS agreements. This includes offering HLS agreements to eligible expiring ‘classic’ agreements, new agreements for SSSIs and other high priority cases, and to meet Water Framework Directive objectives, including those related to Natura 2000 sites.
- About £4m per year for new ELS agreements, but only:
- For underpinning new HLS agreements.
- In the uplands (Uplands ELS).
- For land coming out of ‘classic’ agreements that does not meet HLS criteria, to help ensure a smooth transition for areas which have been under environmental management for a long time.
- For organic producers (Organic ELS).
The option to renew agreements that expire in 2014 will be available only for Organic ELS. No HLS or Uplands ELS agreements are due to expire in 2014 and renewals will not be available for ‘standard’ ELS agreements.
The full Defra Q&A can be found here.
Environmental Stewardship is important, as it provides some funding which can help when you are managing land for the environment. If you are thinking about what you could do on your farm, it is important to have a thought-out plan with the right options in the right place. This will provide a lot of habitat for wildlife and do much better than a haphazard approach. Every farm is different and there is no one-size-fits-all, but a plan should be based on the following themes: