Higher Level Stewardship options will become more popular as the positive effects of existing Entry Level Schemes become more apparent.

That is the view of Sussex-based ex-Farmers Weekly farmer focus writer Patrick Godwin, who is now an independent consultant, specialising in agri-environmental schemes.

While many are looking at the ELS, the move to the Higher Level Farm Environment Plan can seem daunting. The limited options in HLS may also be putting people off, he said – HLS options are only applicable to areas where an environmental feature can be enhanced or maintained.

But some projects are already underway, such as a group of keen duck shooters who developed a self-funding shoot on a wetland habitat managed for winter wildfowl, he said. Another project recreated a wild grey partridge manor on the South Downs.

Mr Godwin acknowledges that the HLS is not for everyone. “The plan must fit with what DEFRA is looking for under the Joint Character Area criteria, and while farmers can make ELS fit the farm, with HLS the situation will determine the plan.”

You can learn how to manage wildlife for profit on your farm at the 2006 Crops/ FEC Annual Conference – “Wildlife Is The Business of Farming” – at Chilford Hall, Linton, Cambs, on Tuesday 7 February.

Click here to see the full conference programme, or email crops@rbi.co.uk, telephone 020 8652 4081 for more information and to book your place.

The annual FEC/Crops Conference is sponsored by Guild of Conservation Grade Producers, Frontier and Syngenta Crop Protection. For more information on the FEC, see www.farmedenvironment.co.uk