2017 has been a turbulent year for farmers and advisers alike. With volatile markets and BREXIT on the horizon there is a lot of uncertainty within the industry at the moment. Regardless, a good number of farmers across the catchment are engaging with the Catchment Sensitive Farming Project, which has been actively working with farmers across the Welland catchment to deliver advice on a range of topics, including Countryside Stewardship, pesticide handling, farm infrastructure and many more subjects. There have also been a number of events for farmers, including a Grassland Management event and a Cross Compliance update, both of which have been well attended by the local farming community.
2018 promises to be as much of a year of change. We hope to continue to provide practical guidance to farmers throughout the catchment and run a series of workshops and events to keep farmers up to date with any changing policy and practices.
Details on the New Farming Rules for Water have been released this month. From 2 April 2018, all farmers in England must meet some new rules to protect water quality. These rules are about standardising good farm practices that many will already be performing and offering a new approach to regulation. Farmers will be able to use the knowledge of what is best for their land, for example by deciding when it is safe to spread fertilisers. The new farming rules are aligned with Basic Payment Scheme cross compliance rules to simplify the requirements for farmers already familiar with these rules. Farmers already meeting GAEC 4 (minimum soil cover) and GAEC 5 (minimise soil erosion) rules should comply with the new rules for soils. Guidance on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/farming-rules-for-water-from-april-2018.
The Countryside Stewardship Scheme, originally launched in 2015, is also set to change for 2018. The scheme is being simplified with four new, simpler packages being made available to farmers: Lowland Grazing, Online Arable, Mixed Farming and an Upland Offer. Farmers will only need to select a small number of core options (minimum of 2 or 3) from between 7 and 14 options to secure a 5-year agreement. The Arable package will be piloted as an online only application form and should be very quick to complete.
The Hedgerow and Boundaries Grant Scheme which allows farmers to use small capital options to improve farmland hedges, will be open again from 15th January 2018 and will close on 30th April 2018. Ensure you read the small print of the guidance – applicants for the lowland grazing, mixed and uplands packages will not be able to apply for the Hedgerows and Boundaries capital grants as well BUT the online arable package applicants can. Don’t get tripped up.
For further information on Catchment Sensitive Farming and what is available, the new Farming Rules for Water or the new schemes becoming available, please contact Georgina Wallis, Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer on 07921 941734.