Chancellor Philip Hammond has promised to guarantee funding for all agri-environment schemes drawn up until the UK leaves the EU.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Monday (3 October), Mr Hammond said his government would continue to fund any EU schemes businesses sign up to before a Brexit, which is predicted to take place in 2019.
Until now, the government had not indicated whether future stewardship funding would continue post-Brexit, which had left many applicants in a difficult position.
However, the chancellor’s announcement means farmers who make successful applications to Natural England for the Countryside Stewardship scheme, which usually last for five years, will be assured funding for the length of the contract.
Mr Hammond said the government’s commitment would offer “additional certainty” to British businesses and other organisations “bidding to receive EU funding while we’re still a member”.
He told delegates: “The Treasury will offer a guarantee to bidders whose projects meet UK priorities and value for money criteria.
“If they secure multi-year EU funding before we exit, we will guarantee those payments after Britain has left the EU.”
In a statement, Defra said: “The chancellor confirmed that the government will guarantee EU funding for structural and investment fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed after the Autumn Statement and which continue after we have left the EU.”
Farm leaders welcome pledge
The Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) said securing funding for EU-funded agri-environment schemes, was a “crucial step” in the transition to a strong post-Brexit future for the environment and for rural businesses.
CLA president Ross Murray said EU-funded schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship, Defra’s flagship agri-environment scheme, were vitally important to driving investment in our rural economy and delivering environmental benefits, such as creating habitats for wildlife and reducing flood risk.
He added: “The chancellor’s announcement has made clear that applications made to carry out environmental improvement work under the EU Countryside Stewardship scheme, for example, will be considered and where approved funded until the contract completes.
“Agreements under the Countryside Stewardship scheme usually run for five years and landowners and farmers can now apply to deliver this type of environmental work with the confidence that the agreement will be honoured until its completion.”