Farmer Focus: Lambing offers respite from paperwork

My attempts to get the new land we acquired last summer into a countryside stewardship scheme finally hit the buffers yesterday.

We have been working on the application since last summer, submitting it late September and receiving reassuring letters since late November that we were going to be offered an agreement.

We had actually reached the point that a lot of the work we had planned including hedge and tree planting was going to have to be delayed until next winter as it was now getting too late to carry it out this season.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

The new land is not in any stewardship scheme at present and hasn’t had any environmental work carried out on it for more than a 100 years, so it was a strong candidate for a new scheme and had a good scoring.

The reason for our application not being able to progress did not come down to any merits of our application but more to do with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) computer system.

The Single Business Identifier (SBI) number we are using already has a live Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement on some other land and we applied for a capital works grant under the Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme this year.

In addition, the new fields we are farming and had entered into our mid-tier Countryside Stewardship scheme (CSS) have yet to be entered onto our SBI despite an Rural Land and Entitlements 1 form being filed last June.

This has all proved too much for the RPA system and the advice I have been given from Natural England this morning is to reapply next year.

If the above isn’t enough, I am also in the midst of a retrospective inspection/audit for another CSS which finished 18 months ago.

It’s just as well that I am bit of a hoarder and never throw anything away out of my office.

Then there is the letter just come from the RPA enquiring about my common grazing rights, the origins of which go back nearly 200 years.

This is going to have to be dealt with very promptly in order to progress my 2015 BPS payment. Time in the lambing shed makes a respite from dealing with all of the above.

Robert Law farms 1,700ha on the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex borders growing cereals, mustard, a range of forage crops for seed, sugar beet, up to 200ha of catchcrop stubble turnips and 300ha of grass supporting a flock of 2,500 ewes. All land farmed is in environmental stewardship schemes. He also manages 500ha of sandland in Nottinghamshire.

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