NFU takes farmer feedback on Countryside Stewardship to minister

Without farmers delivering the scheme, Countryside Stewardship (CS) will not exist – that’s the message the NFU took directly to Farming Minister George Eustice yesterday.

The NFU’s top priority on CS is simpler and more accessible guidance. Just 13 per cent of farmers in the NFU’s CS survey said the guidance answered their questions and 82 per cent were not satisfied with the ease of finding the information they needed.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “The most important part of the scheme is farmers’ ability to make it work for both the environment and their business. We’ve seen some huge holes in the first year of the scheme – the ‘wobbly’ start which Defra admitted to – which tell us it needs significant work. We are holding Defra and Natural England to the commitment they’ve made on improving the scheme every year. Farmers shouldn’t have to decipher guidance – it should be simple, usable and available as early as possible. We know the appetite is there for agri-environment schemes and we need to make it easy for farmers who are interested in applying to do so.”

“We stated the need for a longer application window to the minister. This would allow applicants the time to develop applications before harvest. Record-keeping requirements must be sensible and there should be something in it for livestock farmers – the scheme must have environmental options for this sector.
We are confident that if improvements are made then uptake will also improve. And with this, we must have the reassurance that resources will be in place to deliver Countryside Stewardship agreements in a timely manner.”

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