Livestock Show and Sale at Bridgnorth Livestock Market

Having just attended a Green Breakfast meeting held by Natural England at Harper Adams University College, Newport, I return nicely full and having not eaten a single green thing!

The programme was packed with a number of eloquent speakers on various current and relevant environmental and regulatory issues.

We are all well aware of the budget cuts coming our way through the latest review of the Common Agricultural Policy however I now sit back at my desk, sipping tea from my newly acquired Natural England mug, feeling full of enthusiasm for the opportunities still out there for our farming clients!

The message was clear; we have EU environmental targets and commitments to reach and if we can't get there through voluntary initiatives and current grant aided schemes, then the likelihood is there will be more regulations to come!

As if there's not enough already, I hear you say, but the benefits are there to be seen; cleaner waters, a slowing trend in declining numbers of farmland birds and the benefits are not exclusively for the wildlife. Through implementing management options within Environmental Stewardship Schemes for example, farmers are benefitting from increased yields, reduced soil erosion and reduced fertiliser applications and their associated costs, amongst other things.

Better still, we're informed that there's still plenty of cash available!

At the time of writing, the South-East of England is officially in drought status and more locally, many farmers I'm sure will still be feeling the effects of last year's low water tables and lack of rainfall. Perhaps a poignant time to consider an application for grant aid for a rain water harvesting system?

The Farm and Forestry Improvement Scheme aims to provide help for farming, forestry and horticultural businesses in England to become more efficient at using resources. My colleague has recently submitted an application under the Scheme for GPS equipment and expects to receive confirmation later this month. The first application window has just closed but a second round is expected to open later in the spring.

The Catchment Sensitive Farming Capital Grant Scheme is also funding drainage, dirty water and run-off management systems as well as improvement works to slurry and manure storage. Up to 50% funding is available and applications are open now!

Other areas of funding include the Rural Economy Grant providing up to 40% funding for businesses able to demonstrate that as a result of a grant, their business will achieve a significant step change in performance (such as job creation, increased turnover, access to new markets etc.).

Entry Level Stewardship applications are still being encouraged as a no brainer and Natural England are keen to talk to anyone considering a renewal or putting a new agreement in place.

I am already planning to hold a farmers event at our next Livestock Show and Sale at Bridgnorth Livestock Market to spread the word and encourage interested farmers to come and chat first hand to the faces behind the purse strings, for advice and information on how they can make the various schemes work for them and the environment on their own farms and hopefully do their bit to reduce the implication of further legislation and red tape in the future!

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