NFU seeks assurance over Countryside Stewardship after Brexit vote

Farmers and growers already in agri-environment schemes need a guarantee from Government that the agreements will be honoured in full, the NFU said today.

The call comes after Natural England said that funding decisions for Countryside Stewardship, a European scheme financed through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), are being reviewed following the referendum vote to leave the EU.

A decision is expected shortly. Until then no new Countryside Stewardship grants will be approved.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “We understand why the referendum decision might give cause for Government to reflect on its plans for Countryside Stewardship as these agreements will still be operating beyond 2020 when we will almost certainly have left the EU.

“But time is of the essence as farmers need to know now what is happening with CS roll out. These new agri-environment schemes have already had a shaky start with low farmer confidence in them. The current confusion is not helping this situation. Furthermore it should be remembered that this year thousands of farmers are coming out of the old ELS/HLS schemes. This has not stopped because of Brexit. Farm businesses need to know what the situation is with the successor schemes.

“The next deadline for multi-annual Countryside Stewardship applicants is fast approaching at the end of September. It costs money and takes time to develop a good application. Farmers are not going to incur these costs without the certainty of future funding. A Government decision is required in the next couple of weeks.

“Farm businesses are committed to these multiannual schemes in good faith with significant cost implications they can ill afford to incur at this time.”

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