Field margin on a farm© Tim Scrivener

Farmers will be expected to erect billboards on their land under government rules for Defra’s new Countryside Stewardship scheme.

A “permanent billboard” to publicise the receipt of EU funding will have to be displayed “at a location readily visible to the public,” say Defra rules.

The requirement is mandatory for farmers where payments received for capital items exceed €500,000 – equivalent to £388,250, according to government calculations.

Agreement holders who receive payments exceeding €50,000 (£38,825) for capital items must display a plaque measuring at least 300mm x 300mm.

See also: Countryside Stewardship ‘not fit for purpose’

Agreement holders who receive more than €10,000 (£7,765) during the lifetime of their stewardship agreement must display an A3-sized poster.

The new rule – for agreements commencing on 1 January 2016 – is contained in section 8.4 of the of the government’s Countryside Stewardship Manual (October 2015 version).

“It is likely that the majority of agreements containing multi-year options and capital items will exceed €10,000 in value so at least a poster will be required,” says the document.

“Failure to display the required poster, plaque or billboard, or to replace those which are lost or damaged, will be a breach of the agreement and subject to a penalty or recovery of payments”
Countryside Stewardship Manual

The billboard requirement is likely to include woodland creation projects larger than 7ha, and woodland infrastructure grants.

Farmers have already complained that the scheme is too onerous, with one sheep producer telling Farmers Weekly he will have to take more than 400 photographs as proof that he is abiding by its requirements.

The manual warns: “The poster, plaque or billboard must be put in place at the start of the agreement and must be kept in place for the duration of the agreement.

“Failure to display the required poster, plaque or billboard, or to replace those which are lost or damaged, will be a breach of the agreement and subject to a penalty or recovery of payments.”

In addition, a farm with a website used for business will have to include a short description of the agreement detailing the EU financial support received.

The manual says it is the agreement holder’s responsibility to establish whether these publicity requirements are applicable to them.

It is expected that the total value of a stewardship agreement will shown in the holder’s Countryside Stewardship Agreement Document.

It will also be the responsibility of the agreement holder to fund the production of the poster, plaque or billboard, as well as any other required publicity materials.