Protect farm environment and biodiversity through updated funding scheme

On 1 November 2019 applications for funding through the Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS) will re-open.

Dr Adam Freer, Severn Trent catchment management scientist, explains that the main aim of the scheme is to protect water and the environment, but this year there is an added emphasis on preserving and enhancing biodiversity in the region.

“Farmers applying for STEPS can choose from a list of pre-defined funding options to contribute up to £5,000 of match funding towards projects on-farm,” he says.

The new options include hedgerow and woodland planting, pond management plans as well as wildflower meadow creation to name a few. Applicants can also bring their own ideas to life through the farmer innovation options.

“We’ve worked closely with several partners including the Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to ensure the new options will make a positive impact on the environment, while complementing existing countryside stewardship schemes,” says Adam.

Dr Jodie Rettino, Severn Trent catchment and biodiversity lead, explains that grants have previously helped fund a wide range of projects from cover crops and fencing, to pesticide wash down areas and biofilters, as well as other innovative ideas developed by farmers themselves.

“STEPS has been fundamental to help us protect our water environment, and we’re delighted that applications have been growing annually, with a 23% increase seen for last year’s scheme,” she says.

How to apply

  • Visit www.stwater.co.uk/catchment to find out if your farm or land is in a priority catchment
  • Read the STEPS options list brochure on the website to find out more about the wide range of options you can apply for, or, contact your agricultural advisor to discuss what is best for your farm
  • Once you have decided on the most suitable solutions, you can apply online stwater.co.uk/steps

Top tips for your STEPS application

Focus on water quality: This is still the most important part of the STEPS scheme and applications will be prioritised by how much they address a key pollutant in a specific catchment.

Biodiversity options are a bonus: These don’t count towards the £5,000 funding limit. To be eligible for a biodiversity option, you must also apply for a water quality option, or have previously been awarded a STEPS grant that addresses the key pollutant issue in your catchment e.g. pesticides.

Speak to your agricultural advisor: Severn Trent is expecting another popular year for applications, so get in touch early.

Severn Trent funding saved us money and protected the farm environment

Andrew Symonds used STEPS grants from Severn Trent to improve the environmental credentials of Lincomb Farms in Worcestershire, all while making efficiencies that led to ongoing cost savings.

He explains that he wanted to invest in a GPS autosteer system in his tractor, to help improve sprayer accuracy by avoiding overlapping applications, but couldn’t justify the spend at the time.

“Fortunately, our local Severn Trent agricultural adviser, introduced us to STEPS and helped us complete the application. We received match funding for our investment and have subsequently cut our pesticide and fertiliser bills by over £3,000 per year from increased accuracy.

“The following year, the Severn Trent funding helped us put in six-metre buffer margins around watercourses that lie in arable land, in order to minimise pesticide run off and leaching,” says Andrew.

“Because the grants are flexible, we’ve now combined two STEPS applications to help fund a roofed sprayer washdown area and biofilter. This helps us to safely dispose of sprayer washings and spillages, without causing harm to the watercourse or wider environment.”

 

Get Our E-Newsletter - breaking news to your in-box twice a week
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
Share.

About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.