Farmers and land managers can submit applications for the 2024 Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier from today (Tuesday, February 7), until the closing date of April 28.
And, Mid Tier and Wildlife Offer agreements are expected to open next month.
The start of the application window comes after Farming Minister Mark Spencer announced an average increase of 10% for Countryside Stewardship revenue payment rates.
The grant offers multi-year agreements and one-off grants for over 250 different actions farmers can take to enhance the environment alongside their farming business, from planting and maintaining new hedgerows or woodlands through to restoring peatlands and moorlands.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said the actions taken aim to make food production more resilient and efficient over the longer term whilst contributing towards the UK’s environmental goals on carbon, biodiversity, water quality and net zero.
RPA chief executive, Paul Caldwell, said: “We are pleased to be able to open up Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier applications for 2024 on the back of increased interest in the scheme.
“We are making it more straightforward to apply and are giving new agreement holders longer to carry out capital works within their agreement and welcome applications from farmers who want to manage or improve our important environmental features.”
There are now more than 32,000 ongoing Countryside Stewardship agreements in place – with the scheme seeing a 94% increase in uptake since 2020, the department said.
This, it said, includes almost 4,000 Higher Tier agreements delivering environmental benefits – such as woodland management or habitat creation.
“Countryside Stewardship is a fantastic opportunity for farmers and landowners to be financially supported as they protect the planet while producing food more sustainably,” Farming Minister Mark Spencer said.
“Farmers will feel the added benefit where they can take that mix and match approach between the various Countryside Stewardship tiers, but also the Sustainable Farming Incentive.
“The scheme provides funding for some of our most important habitats, including flower-rich hay meadows and improved management of our woodlands, so I encourage everyone to consider whether areas of your farm would benefit from what’s on offer and apply.”