Press release

Government fund to support collaboration in farming communities opens

Latest round of the popular Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund has opened today.

Cropped Wiltshire Rolling Hills in summertime

The latest round of the popular Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund has opened today (7 November), giving groups of farmers and landowners in England the opportunity to work together and share knowledge to protect and enhance the local environment, in line with their local Countryside Stewardship priorities.

The £2.5 million fund encourages collaboration between farming groups and supports Government efforts to improve the environment and create cleaner, greener landscapes. The fund is an important part of the Rural Payments Agency’s aim to support agricultural and rural communities across the country.

The funding allows facilitators, for example local farming and nature groups and charities, to give advice and share knowledge with groups of farmers and other land managers on activities such as restoring habitats for wildlife and improving biodiversity, creating woodland, improving air and water quality, or restoring historic environments.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:

By joining forces on shared environmental ambitions, farmers and landowners are able to deliver a greater positive impact on our landscape than they could ever achieve alone.

This Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund is already helping to bring farmers and landowners together for the benefit of nature and the environment, and I encourage farming communities across England to consider applying.

Paul Caldwell, Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency said:

I am delighted we are able to provide farmers and landowners with another opportunity to come together on projects to improve their local environment.

We want to see uptake from new and existing groups to deliver large-scale environmental improvement in their local areas, create valuable connections and share farming knowledge.

Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England, said:

Countryside Stewardship and the farmers and land managers who take up the scheme make a vital contribution to delivering the Government’s environmental commitments, including the statutory target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.

By bringing groups of land managers together in pursuit of positive habitat management and species re-introductions, the Facilitation Fund leads to long term initiatives for nature recovery where partnerships strengthen delivery on the ground.

Natural England works closely with farming groups and we look forward to supporting further groups via the fund as they nurture wildlife-rich habitats that provide clean water and air and underpin sustainable food production.

This is the seventh round of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund under the current Rural Development Programme for England. 180 groups with over 4,000 members have benefited from the funding so far, with this round of funding expected to benefit more than 40 further groups.

Previous projects to have benefited have include:

  • Running demonstration days in timber extraction and wood processing in Morecambe Bay
  • Exploring measures to reduce flooding along the Glenderamackin river in the Lake District
  • Improving farmers’ understanding of ground nesting birds in the Upper Nidderdale
  • Helping to reconnect farmers with nature and improving their confidence in conservation farming in the White Peak

The fund supports the delivery 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.

The application window is open from 7 November until 25 January 2023.

Published 7 November 2022