Pressure is growing for amendments to be allowed to more Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements as a result of the abolition of greening from next year.
Defra announced on Monday (17 August) that 2021 applications could be amended, allowing land that would have gone into Ecological Focus Area (EFA) to be added to CS schemes.
The move also allows additional options previously precluded by greening rules to be brought into schemes, and came a full two weeks after the 31 July deadline for 2021 CS agreements to be submitted.
However, consultants and advisors say that those holding earlier agreements are disadvantaged by the abolition of greening in just the same way as 2021 applicants.
Robin Hobson, chairman of consultant Laurence Gould, said it was illogical not to give the opportunity to amend CS schemes to those who has signed up in earlier years.
“Others are just as disadvantaged by this as 2021 applicants,” said Mr Hobson. “It’s illogical and unfair that other farmers are excluded and it seems as if policy is being made on the hoof.”
The announcement of the abolition of greening came just three days before the 31 July deadline for 2021 CS applications, leaving little time to amend those that had not been submitted and causing anger among advisors and applicants.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) also wants the option to amend existing CS agreements and add land that was in greening to be extended to all agreement-holders. The organisation will take this up with Defra and the RPA (Rural Payments Agency), said CLA senior land use policy advisor Harry Greenfield.
“Although greening has been removed, we would like to see the same level of environmental management continue, especially given the transition to ELM [Environmental Land Management] and payments for public goods,” he said.
“The RPA should also support and encourage land managers to take this opportunity. This would increase the amount of land committed to delivering environmental benefits.”