In previous years it was possible to utilise certain CS options as EFA and take a reduction in the option payment. It has been announced recently that 18 Countryside Stewardship options can no longer be used as EFA under the Basic Payment Scheme although hedges included in a CS agreement can still be used as EFA without incurring a payment reduction.  Options can be located on the same parcel as EFA providing they do not overlap.

Applicants can now remove land from their SBI if it has been allocated to them incorrectly by phoning the RPA and requesting that the parcel be removed.

Applicants can now also make land cover changes to their holding via the phone providing it is only one land cover change and it covers the whole of the land parcel.

The RPA have now mapped hedgerows onto the RPA online system.  Countryside Stewardship applications and EFA will be checked against the data held on the system.  It is important to check the information held by the RPA is correct and submit an RLE1 form and sketch map to update the system if there are errors in the data especially if applicants are planning to claim CS options or utilise the hedgerows for EFA.

Four new Countryside Stewardship agreements were introduced this year, which are non-competitive. A brief summary of each is shown here:

Online arable

The online arable agreement has eleven arable options to choose from, and applicants must pick at least one option from three different categories, and a minimum of 3% of the farmed land under the applicant’s management must be placed within the scheme. There is no maximum number of options that can be used, and the agreements last for five years. See here for Online Arable categories/options

Lowland grazing

The lowland grazing agreement has seven options to choose from which are divided into three categories. Applicants must pick one option from category 1, and one from category 2.  Further options can be selected, and the agreements last for five years. See here for Lowland Grazing categories/options


The upland agreement gives applicants four base options to choose from, plus additional supplemental options as well.  The minimum number of options applicants must take up is one base option and two supplemental options, or two base options and one supplemental option. See here for Upland categories/options

Mixed farming

The mixed farming agreement has three categories with fourteen options to choose from and applicants must pick at least one option from categories 1, 2 and 3. The minimum number of options that can be selected is three, and there is no maximum. See here for Mixed Farming categories/options

These are similar to the old ELS arrangements with Mid Tier options. Maybe Mr Gove recognises he needs such non-competitive schemes in order to attract the uptake by farmers to fulfil his ‘green vision’!

For more information on these and other agri-environment schemes see here.