New round of government fund for collaborative farming communities announced

Warwickshire countryside

The government is rolling out a sixth round of its Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund, giving groups of farmers and landowners in England time to consider making an application ahead of December 2021 when the application window opens.

The £2.5 million fund encourages collaboration and knowledge-sharing amongst the farming community. To apply, groups must submit plans showing how they will work together and share knowledge to protect and enhance their local environment, in line with their local Countryside Stewardship priorities.

Successful facilitation groups will also offer training, support and advice to potential applicants for agri-environment schemes.

This year’s fund includes support for new environmental priorities such as the improvement of air quality through slurry removal, reduction of ammonia emissions, tree planting and shelters, and managing beaver activity that will offer support and advice for landowners when beavers move onto their land.

Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “By getting involved in Countryside Stewardship, farmers and landowners alike can play a crucial role in supporting our efforts to improve the environment and create cleaner, greener landscapes.

“We intend to provide sufficient time for potential groups to form and think about their objectives and local priorities, ahead of the fund opening in December. I encourage all interested individuals to get involved.”

Rural Payments Agency Chief Executive Paul Caldwell said: “I’m pleased that we can continue to provide farmers and landowners the opportunity to amplify the long-term environmental benefits brought by the Countryside Stewardship schemes through the Facilitation Fund.”

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said: “I am pleased that a further round of the Facilitation Fund has been announced today. Last month Natural England published an evaluation report of the fund which demonstrated how the new, strong connections between group members facilitated by the fund have enabled coordinated action to restore and manage habitat at a scale capable of encouraging environmental recovery – boosting natural resilience for wildlife, farming and livelihoods.”

To date there have been five rounds of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund under the current Rural Development Programme for England, funding 139 groups with over 3,800 members. This further round of funding is expected to invest in over 30 facilitation groups.

The fund supports the delivery of our ambition for thriving plants and wildlife as part of the 25 Year Environmental Plan, and is a part of Defra’s plans for a renewed agricultural sector, centred around incentivising sustainable farming practices alongside profitable food production.

Applications will be invited from December, with a closing date of 19 January 2022.