Farmers urged to renew environmental agreements

Almost 40,000 English farmers are being urged to renew their environmental stewardship agreements.

More than 6000 of the first 26,000 Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) agreements are due to expire this summer.

A further 12,000 of the five-year agreements – initially signed in 2005 – are due to expire by the end of the year.

Now Natural England is encouraging those with expiring ELS agreements to renew them over the coming months.

Producers with expiring agreements should submit their applications at least two months before the expiry date, it said.

Doing so would ensure there was no gap between agreements.

The first ELS renewals are due on 1 August.

This time around, farmers are being urged to consider choosing less popular “in-field” options that have bigger benefits for wildlife.

Most of these options – such as skylark plots – have proved less popular because they take up some field space.

But they can also include options such as pollen and nectar mixes, which are still considered “in-field” even when around field edges.

Choosing them will contribute to the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, the industry-led initiative to fend off a compulsory set-aside replacement.

Half of all eligible farmers have joined the ELS scheme, with 7% of farmers in high-level stewardship, according to a recent survey.

Some 68% of farmers are aware of the Campaign for the Farmed Envrionment, according to the National Farm Research Unit.

But just 35% of farmers said they planned to take campaign action.

The government has warned that it will consider introducing compulsory agri-environment measures unless more producers participate.

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