Details of how money allocated to England’s new Countryside Stewardship Scheme will be spent have emerged from Defra, but other key questions about the scheme remain unanswered.
The department has revealed its planned spend on the different elements of the scheme which replaces Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship (ELS and HLS).
The indicative figures reveal that over the next five years the government has allocated a total of £925m to the scheme.
Of this £380m will fund the schemes’ higher tier, similar in approach to the current HLS, which will be aimed at the most environmentally important sites in the country.
Another £412m will be allocated to the scheme’s mid tier, which is the replacement for ELS, although it will be more targeted and therefore fewer farmers will get agreements.
It has also emerged the department intends to allocate an additional £85m to capital spending grants.
This will be divided between the Water Capital Grants Scheme, which opens for applications on 2 March, and the Hedges and Boundaries Capital Grant, which will launch in 2016.
Farmers have until 30 April to apply for a water capital grant of up to £10,000 to help them carry put work that reduces the impact of agriculture on water quality.
The figures were shown to farmers for the first time at a session at the NFU Conference.
Claire Robinson, countryside adviser for the NFU, said until the schemes were running it was hard to tell if the funding allocations were sufficient.
It was good news that Natural England expected to be able to roll about 90% of existing HLS agreements into the higher tier, she said.
However, it was difficult to know how many agreements would result from the mid tier budget because of changes to the way payments were calculated.
Under ELS, farmers were paid £30/ha across the whole of their agreement, but under countryside stewardship producers would only be paid on the options they signed up for.
It was therefore difficult to know what those agreements would be worth.
“There are still some big decisions outstanding on how the scheme is due to be run,” she added.
“The information isn’t there yet to enable an individual to see what targets there are in their area, look at what options might work for them and see if it is worth making an application.”
The application window for the higher and mid tiers of countryside stewardship will run from July to September 2015.