What farmers, foresters and land managers need to know and do before applying for a Countryside Stewardship grant, and how to manage a grant agreement.
Applies to England
About Countryside Stewardship
Countryside Stewardship (CS) provides financial incentives for farmers, foresters and land managers to look after and improve the environment.
CS protects and enhances the natural environment by:
- increasing biodiversity
- improving habitat
- expanding woodland areas
- improving water quality
- improving air quality
- improving natural flood management
CS supports Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan ‘for our country to be the healthiest, most beautiful place in the world to live, work and bring up a family’. It also supports Defra’s strategic objective of ‘a cleaner, healthier environment, benefitting people and the economy’.
Grants for 2024
CS is made up of 8 grants (when they are all open). The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) manages CS agreements.
Search the CS grant finder for a description and essential requirements for each capital item or revenue option.
It provides 3-year agreements offering capital items to achieve specific environmental benefits in 4 groups:
- boundaries, trees and orchards
- water quality
- air quality
- natural flood management
You can apply for a Capital Grant 2024 at any time of the year from 3 January 2024.
Higher Tier Capital Grants
These grants provide 3-year agreements offering capital items to achieve additional environmental benefits alongside existing agreements.
You can apply for a Higher Tier Capital Grant 2024 at any time of the year from 3 January 2024.
Protection and Infrastructure grants
Protection and Infrastructure grants are for capital items that support improving the management of woodland and to help manage the impact of beaver behaviours.
You can apply for a Protection and Infrastructure grant at any time of the year from 3 January 2024.
Woodland Management Plan (WMP) grants
A WMP grant is a capital grant for a one-off payment to create a 10-year woodland management plan. It must be fully compliant with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS).
You can apply for a WMP grant at any time of the year from 3 January 2024.
Woodland Tree Health (WTH) grants
A WTH grant helps to restock or improve woodland after tree health problems.
You can apply for a WTH grant at any time of the year from 3 January 2024.
Implementation Plan (PA1) and Feasibility Study (PA2) grants
Implementation Plan and Feasibility Study grants provide funding for more complex agreements and projects. You must speak to a Natural England advisor before applying for one of these grants.
You can apply for a Implementation Plan grant (PA1) or Feasibility Study grant (PA2) at any time of the year from 3 January 2024.
Higher Tier grants are for multi-year management options and capital items for the most environmentally important sites, including commons and woodlands. These are usually in places that need complex management, such as creating or restoring habitats, and improving woodland.
Applications for Higher Tier are now closed.
For information about agreements starting in January 2024 read the Higher Tier grants 2023: Countryside Stewardship guidance.
Mid Tier and Wildlife Offers
The aim of Mid Tier is to protect and enhance the natural environment through multi-year management grants and capital grants to improve:
- diversity of wildlife
- water quality
- air quality
- natural flood management
Wildlife Offers are part of Mid Tier and provide a simpler set of options to help improve wildlife in 4 different farming types.
Applications for Mid Tier and Wildlife Offers are now closed.
For information about agreements starting in January 2024 read the Mid Tier grants and Wildlife Offers 2023: Countryside Stewardship guidance.
The Facilitation Fund supports individuals who act as facilitators to bring together groups of farmers, foresters and other land managers to improve environmental outcomes in their local area.
You can apply for the 2024 round of Facilitation Funding now. Applications are open until 15 January 2024.
Land use codes 2024
See the land use codes you should use in your application.
Revenue payment rates from January 2024
Defra has reviewed and updated CS payment rates based on current costs. See the rate changes for CS revenue options.
Existing agreement holder’s guidance
Existing CS agreement holders should follow the relevant scheme guidance to manage their agreement effectively and meet all its requirements.
How to make a claim for payment
CS agreement holders should follow the guidance on how to make a capital or revenue claim to get paid under the terms of their CS agreement.
How HMRC treats subsidy payments
Your grant and subsidy payments are paid before tax is taken off. You may need to tell HMRC about these if you or your business pay UK tax. For more information, read HMRC’s Business Income Manual BIM40451 - Specific receipts: grants and subsidies. If you have an accountant, you should also discuss this with them.
How Countryside Stewardship fits in with the Agricultural Transition
CS continues to offer Mid Tier and Higher Tier agreements starting in 2024, alongside rolling out further elements of our new scheme, the Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI). Several SFI standards are already available, with more due to be introduced in future.
Signing up to a CS agreement now will put you in the best possible position to join future schemes. It will also give you a viable, long-term source of income for providing environmental benefits as the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments are reduced.
All new CS agreement holders will be able to terminate the agreement early without penalty (at agreed points) provided any new agreement delivers equivalent or greater levels of environmental outcomes.
SFI 2022 and 2023
Anyone with a CS agreement will be able to apply for SFI actions so long as we are not paying for the same action twice. Find out how the SFI interacts with other schemes.
CS and SFI pilot scheme
The SFI pilot is currently running alongside SFI. Applications for the pilot are closed.
Land parcels already in an SFI pilot agreement are not eligible for CS Mid Tier, including the Wildlife Offers. SFI pilot agreement holders can access one-off payments to buy equipment or other capital items from existing offers, such as Countryside Stewardship capital grants and the Farming Investment Fund.
Local Nature Recovery
We will develop an enhanced version of CS for future years, so we achieve the same ambitious outcomes that we intended to deliver through Local Nature Recovery, rather than building a whole new scheme. We will publish more information about the scheme, including how CS agreement holders can take part, later this year.
Customers with a CS Mid Tier or Wildlife Offer agreement can also apply for a Landscape Recovery agreement. Defra will work with Landscape Recovery applicants during the project development phase on how to transition CS Mid Tier (including Wildlife Offers) agreement holders fully into Landscape Recovery and avoid double funding. Our first round of projects have recently entered the development phase.
Register yourself and your land
Before you apply for a CS grant, you need to register on the Rural Payments service. Follow the guidance on how to register and check your details.
For help, telephone RPA on 03000 200 301.
Authorise an agent
You can authorise an agent to fill in and submit your application for you. This also applies to payment claim forms for agreement holders.
For an agent to act for you, you must give them the appropriate permission levels in the Rural Payments service. This applies even if you have previously authorised the agent using the paper agent authorisation form.
Read the guidance on how to give someone else permission to act on your behalf for more information on the different levels of permission. You should also read the information on the ‘Permission levels’ screen in the Rural Payments service. This lists what is permitted at each level.
You are responsible for making sure that you assign permissions on the Rural Payments service correctly and that contact details are correct.
How to check and update your maps when applying for Countryside Stewardship
Use the mapping guidance to check all land parcels you intend to include on your CS application on your digital maps.
Under a CS agreement, you will get a site visit. Site visits will assess how the environmental aims are met under the options you have in your agreement. We will also check that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.
Where there is uncertainty about whether the environmental aims have been achieved, we will consider any records or evidence you may have kept demonstrating you have achieved the environmental aims.
This will include any steps you’ve taken to follow the recommended management, which you can find by using the Countryside Stewardship grant finder. It is your responsibility to keep records demonstrating that you have followed the recommended management if you want to rely on these to support your claim.
Find out what to expect from a site visit.
Keeping farm records
You should keep farm records as evidence you are meeting your scheme agreement. Read the guidance for agreement holders for the scheme you’ve applied for to find out what records you should keep.
Reductions to payments
We may reduce the amount we pay you. The reasons are included in the guidance for agreement holders under each CS scheme.
Prevent financial fraud against your farm business
You need to be aware of financial fraud and take measures to prevent it if you’re receiving large sums of grant money.
How we handle your data
Defra is the data controller for personal data you give to the RPA. Read the RPA personal information charter to find out how we handle your data.
How to complain
Follow the complaints procedure if you’re unhappy about a decision made by the RPA.
You can contact RPA by email, phone or post.
Rural Payments Agency (CS)
PO Box 324
Telephone: 03000 200 301
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm, except bank holidays
Find out about call charges
Please quote your single business identifier (SBI) and agreement number in all enquiries.