Higher payments for Higher Level Stewardship

Payment rates are set to rise for farmers who choose popular options under Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).

Increases later this year will bring HLS payments into line with rates paid under Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (Uplands ELS).

Higher payments will be available for seven items covering hedgerow, stone wall and bank restoration; fencing, and the blocking of grip drainage channels.

The changes take effect from 1 July 2010.

In most cases the increases will be 40-80% above current rate, but earth bank restoration will more than triple from £3 to £10.10 per metre.

Natural England, the government’s landscape agency, said the increases would make HLS an even more attractive proposition for farmers.

The measure will harmonise payments for options which feature in both HLS and the new Uplands ELS, whose first agreements begin on 1 July 2010.

It has been agreed by DEFRA and Natural England and has received the approval of the European Commission.

All farmers whose HLS agreements start on or after 1 July 2010 will receive the higher rates.

Farmers with earlier HLS agreements will become eligible for the new payments at the five-year break point.

The first HLS agreements started in 2006, so farmers in existing HLS agreements will benefit from 2011.

Farmers applying for HLS can defer their start date to 1 July 2010 to take advantage of the increased rates.

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