Make those applications watertight or you could be sunk
With the deadline for Countryside Stewardship schemes just weeks away, farmers need to ensure applications are 100 per cent per cent accurate before submission to take full advantage of the grants on offer.
Farmers need to move quickly. The deadline for requesting application packs for Mid-Tier and Water Capital Grants was May 31, with applications needing to be submitted by July 31.
Changes in the application process means it is vital that forms are completed fully, including all relevant supporting evidence on submission, or farmers could risk having their application refused.
This is the first year that Countryside Stewardship applications will be handled by the Rural Payments Agency, rather than Natural England.
In the past, Natural England has been quite flexible. For example, if farmers sent in an application with errors, or part of the form had been missed, they would contact the farmer and allow them to make corrections.
However, we’ve been informed that the RPA are unlikely to provide this level of flexibility and therefore, any application which is not completed in full could be rejected.
This is why it’s more important than ever to submit watertight applications. If you’re in any doubt, seek professional advice because a rejection could result in applicants losing out on the financial benefit for another 12 months.
Getting advice is not only important to satisfy the processors, but it’s also key to making sure the scheme fits with the farming system.
Our experience of handling applications over the years means that we understand which options fit well with certain farming systems. We can therefore advise farmers on the best options for them.
Countryside Stewardship can be overwhelming and challenging to complete.
And now is the time to make the most of Mid-Tier and Water Capital Grants as they are only guaranteed in their current format for the next couple of years.
We don’t have any steer on what’s going to replace these two grants and with the uncertainty of Brexit ahead, anything that can secure a guaranteed income stream could be highly beneficial to many farm businesses.
This is why farmers should seriously consider applying to make the most of the benefits while they can.
Beth Hanson, rural professional at McCartneys