ENGLAND: Government renews scheme that pays farmers to protect biodiversity
England's Countryside Stewardship Scheme, under which farmers apply to receive payments in return for protecting sections of land from over intensive farming, will be renewed. Funding levels for the second stage of the national scheme has yet to be announced, but individual farms seeking renewal of Stewardship agreements will not have to compete for funding with new applicants.
Consultation is currently taking place to decide how much money will be afforded to the Scheme, but Countryside Minister, Elliot Morley, has confirmed that funding for new and renewed Stewardship agreements will be kept separate.
“We would like to see an awful lot more money allocated to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme,” Kaley Hart, rural policy officer at the Council for the Protection of Rural England, told edie. “It’s a very popular scheme and well regarded by farmers. Currently, there are a lot of applications being turned down – not because they don’t meet environmental standards, but because there isn’t enough money.”
Hart welcomed the announcement that existing agreements with farmers are likely to renewed in many cases: “It is very important that the environmental benefits that have been accrued be maintained.”
The Countryside Stewardship Scheme is a national scheme begun in 1991. Targeted habitats and landscapes influence the scheme’s application approval process. They are:
- chalk and limestone grassland
- lowland heath
- waterside land
- historic landscapes and features
- old orchards and pastures
- field boundaries such as walls, ditches and hedgerows
- uncropped margins in arable fields
- countryside around towns.
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