Natural Capital Agency

Government policy has seen an increasing focus on environmental measures with the Environment Act (2021) and agricultural policy focused on the delivery of environmental benefit with ‘public money for public goods’ as well as food production.

Here at Addisons Surveyors LLP in Barnard Castle, County Durham, I've been developing over the last year a Registry for Natural Capital - Biodiversity Net Gain, Carbon Credits and Nutrient Credits.

With the guidance published on Wednesday, 21 February 2023, we now have certainty that the mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain market will start this November and our independent selling platform will be able to operate as planned. With Government taking a hands-off approach, we can form increasingly stronger operational links with Local Planning Authorities and direct communication with Developers, ensuring a national marketplace for this new environmental credit.

As the Basic Payment Scheme fades away, this new source of non-taxpayer funded income for landowners is very welcome and Biodiversity Units are set to be around for a long time.

Environmental Stewardship Annual Claim

The window for claims is nearly closed and it's worth checking that the RPA have received them. Also, from my conversations with the RPA, it's worth noting...

  • The check box for receipt notifications isn't being acted on
  • The ES specific Agent Authorisation form isn't actually required, it's being done from the RPA website permissions
  • Beware putting any signatures on you email submissions, particularly if they contain Facebook/Twitter icons, they are causing black pages at the other end and making it difficult for the RPA to see the applications

Philip Wayre Upland Trust

Really please to be asked to be involved with the Philip Wayre Upland Trust :)

I've re-jigged their website a bit and will be pushing the Wardens reports to their new blog, along with preparing monthly reports etc.

Turbulent Times

A usual, busy time of the year, but with so much going on in the world it seems hard to be able plan a course through the current turbulence and the pressures upon the changing face of agriculture.

Countryside Stewardship has been simplified to a certain extent and made more accessible now we are outside the EU regulations. With recent increases in payment rates and flexibility it is perhaps worth another look as a stepping stone that leads into the new policies as they open.

The Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI) opens in June with three standards focusing on arable and improving grassland soils. These standards allow initial access to the scheme that is focused on good farm husbandry. Up to £58 per hectare is available to deliver measures to improve the health and fertility of their soil. The funds will support the testing of soils, planting of winter cover crops and the incorporation of organic matter. It is possible to be in both Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farming Incentive so long as there is no double funding.

With a voluntary way of exiting farming, the lump sum payment is worth 2.35 times the historic annual BPS payment for those who may decide the time is right and wish to leave the industry - either to rent out, sell their land, or surrender their tenancy - bearing in mind the support for new entrants to the industry.

Basic Payment Scheme

Well, the Basic Payment Scheme is now open for applications, so get going! The rates have begun to be progressively reduced but are still very much here, including young farmer payments and there has been a surge in interest in the Lump Sum Exit scheme, which does warrant careful consideration.

The key date this year to get any entitlement transfers done, for land at your disposal and the application deadline to avoid penalties, is 16 May 2022. This is also true for the Countryside Stewardship revenue claims (open until 16 May without penalty) and there are the new Mid Tier & Wildlife Offers, Higher Tier and Capital grants with their higher rates.

Now the Sustainable Farm Incentive is just around the corner, and BPS payments will be delinked, it has never been more important to take stock of your farming direction, to review the new schemes and grants available to you, and vital that your records are up to date and verified with the RPA.

Woodland Creation is becoming more important in the Governments strategy, but again it requires careful consideration within your farming enterprise. Early planning is fundamental to the interaction of these new schemes, particularly with a view to any Carbon sequestering or trading.