Farmer Focus: A welcome rise in stewardship payment rates

Happy new year to you all – that is the last time I’ll say it until next year.

The past few weeks have been quiet, with everyone off for the Christmas holidays and taking a well-earned rest.

I somehow ended up with the job of filling digester one with water to pressure-test the tank before the seedstock arrives later this month.

It is quite an achievement to think that a year ago it was an arable field, and it will shortly be a fully operational 2MW anaerobic digestion plant.

About the author

Robin Aird
Arable Farmer Focus writer Robin Aird manages 1500 ha on the North Wiltshire and Gloucestershire border with a further 160ha on a contract farming agreement.  Soils vary from gravel to clay, with the majority silty clay loams. A diverse estate with residential, commercial and events enterprises. He is Basis qualified and advises on other farming businesses.
Read more articles by Robin Aird

See also: Farmer Focus: Customers believe cheap food is a right

It was a welcome surprise to see that payment rates were increased for the Countryside Stewardship scheme. When we applied, we were happy with the rates, so this is a nice bonus.

I always find it amusing how people get straight onto social media to complain that the rates are not high enough, or something is not good enough.

It doesn’t help that when these changes are announced, they always use the headline amount and not an average change.

We are now busy planting 4km of new hedges, which were part-funded by our Mid Tier agreement.

The cost of plants has doubled since I put the first order in six months ago – talk about supply and demand. It is great to see all the gaps in the hedges filled and new hedge lines replanted.

Looking back at 2021, we had below-average rainfall, with 200mm less than the two years before, which were exceptionally wet.

This resulted in a nice, dry farm this winter, allowing us to get on with jobs without making a mess.

Hopefully, we will get some good frosts and free concrete soon to tidy up the last few wet areas of the farm.

We have a few projects in the pipeline which I will hopefully share as we go through the year.

The first is obtaining a riding permit, which opens a further 20km of permissive riding for a small fee, and we will be doing a walking permit to offer a similar experience.

I was always told as a child to count the pennies, and the pounds will stack up.

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