Applications are open for the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund, which aims to encourage environmental improvements at a landscape level, rather than a single-farm scale.
The fund provides financial support to enable individuals and organisations in England to bring groups of farmers together to deliver a shared environmental goal through the Countryside Stewardship scheme.
A facilitation fund agreement lasts for three years and pays for a facilitator to get farmers and other land managers working together in a co-ordinated fashion.
Although each farmer member submits their Countryside Stewardship application individually, the idea is that it is designed around the CS priorities set at a group level, so each farm picks options that are complementary to their neighbours.
The size of the groups can vary widely, with smaller projects involving a minimum of four farmers, while some of the larger projects involve up to 80 producers.
Funds on offer
The funding available to a facilitator depends on the number of holdings that will be involved in the group and the level of input required.
For a project involving four holdings it could be up to £12,000/year, which is based on £500 a holding and up to £10,000 for costs of delivering the co-operation.
The maximum amount on offer each year for a group of 80 holdings is £50,000.
The money can be claimed on a quarterly basis in arrears or on a less-frequent basis by agreement with the Rural Payments Agency.
Since the fund first opened in 2015, about 100 groups, covering 450,000ha, have signed up to implement a group scheme.
Previous rounds have seen successful applications for groups taking action to address flood risk management, increase the habitat for wetland and farmland birds, reduce soil erosion and help pollinators.
The CS Facilitation Fund is open for applications until 4 October.