Environmental Stewardship Scheme
The Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS) was launched in March 2005 to build upon the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Scheme the Countryside Stewardship (CS) Scheme and the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) and is open to farmers and land managers in England. Approval of the Rural Development Plan for England (RDPE) in December 2007 has resulted in some changes to these schemes. For further details take a look at DEFRA's website CLICK HERE.
The scheme is an agri-environmental scheme managed under the ERDP. Its main objectives are to:
|Conserve wildlife and biodiversity.|
|Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character|
|Protect the historic environment and natural resources|
|Promote public access and understanding of the countryside|
|Conserve genetic resources|
|Provide flood management|
The scheme has been built into three levels:
|Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)|
This whole farm scheme is open to all farmers and land managers in England and encourages simple yet effective environmental management which goes further than the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) to maintain land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). The scheme requires that land entered into it meets a 'points target'. This can be achieved through the adoption of management options which will be worth a certain amount of 'points'. Over fifty simple management options are available to suit most farm types.
The agreements with DEFRA are legally binding and run for five years. Early withdrawal will incur a penalty.
The benefits of the scheme will include:
|Improvements to water quality and reductions in soil erosion through better management practices|
|Improvements in conditions for farmland wildlife|
|Maintained and enhanced landscape character e.g. traditional field boundaries|
|Protection of the historical environment e.g. archaeological artefacts and features|
A flat rate payment of £30 per hectare, per year is made automatically every six months for land meeting the eligibility requirements. One exception being for land in the Less Favoured Area (LFA), which will receive £8 per hectare, per year.
|Organic Entry Level Stewardship
The OELS is largely the same as the ELS but open to farmers whose land is either wholly or partly managed organically or under conversion and does not receive aid under the Organic Aid Scheme (OAS) or the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS). The management options are the same as the ELS with the exception of those that are unsuitable for Organic Farming, such as, conservation headlands. The land must also be registered with and Organic Inspection Body before application is made and during the entire time of the agreement.
A flat rate payment of £60 per hectare, per year is made to land which is OELS eligible. A flat rate payment of £30 per hectare, per year is made to land which is ELS eligible, with the exception of land within LFA's which is paid at £8 per hectare, per year. For land which is under conversion, payment rates are: £600 per hectare, per year for the first three years of the agreement for top fruit orchards (conditions apply) or £175 per hectare, per year for the first two years of the agreement for improved land (conditions apply).
Examples of the management option for ELS and OELS include:
|Boundary Features - e.g. stone wall, ditch and hedgerow management.|
|Protection of historic sites - e.g. taking archaeological sites out of arable production.|
|Management Planning - e.g. soil, nutrient, crop protection and manure planning.|
|Buffer Strips - e.g. 2, 4 or 6 m strips.|
|Trees and Woodlands - e.g. Protection of in-field trees and woodland edges.|
|Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)|
HLS aims to provide significant environmental benefits in priority areas and situations. The more demanding HLS management options are combined with the ELS and OELS management options into a single agreement which will be specifically focused on local circumstances.
HLS is designed to contribute to one or more of the primary objectives of ESS and will mainly apply to land with significant environmental interest and within regional targets.
Examples of the management options and priority environmental features and situations include:
|Hedgerows - e.g. maintenance to high environmental value|
|Grassland - maintenance & restoration of species-rich semi-natural grassland or wet grassland|
|Restoration and Maintenance of Lowland Heath|
|Wetlands - Maintenance of ponds of high wildlife value and reed beds.|
|Resource Protection - to prevent erosion and run-off.|
Agreements will be made for ten year periods and payments will be made six-monthly, the first payment being automatic and for half of the annual management payment and the second half will be paid upon the completion of a claim form.
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