11 February 2000

Apply early for stewardship aid

CONSERVATION-minded farmers are being urged to apply early for extra money available under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

MAFF increased funds recently for new stewardship agreements, making £16m available this year, compared with £7.5m in 1999/2000.

Overall the total stewardship budget for 2000/01 is £35m, including funding for two- and three-year agreements. This budget will increase to £51m in 2001/02.

FWAGs technical director, Richard Knight, welcomes the news, but stresses that the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is competitive. Not all applications are accepted, though farmers working with FWAG in the past had a high success rate, he adds. In 1998, FWAG helped almost 70% of their farmers succeed, compared with an average of 50%.

The organisation expects a record number of applications this year and advises farmers to apply as soon as possible. &#42