RSPB offers advice to farmers weighing up wildlife scheme

The RSPB is offering free advice to any farmers located in the Yorkshire Wolds and towards the coast who are considering signing up to the Government's newly simplified Countryside Stewardship scheme.

RSPB conservation advisor Chris Tomson.

Applications opened this week for the fresh round of the scheme which has been restructured to offer four different package of measures that are individually tailored towards lowland grazing, mixed, arable and upland farms.

Farmers who sign up agree to incorporate wildlife-friendly measures on three percent or more of their land. Options range from providing winter bird food, creating nest plots for skylarks and lapwings, and sowing nectar flower mixes for the benefit insect pollinators.

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The RSPB is keen to see the Wolds and coastal parts of Yorkshire get involved as the charity believes the areas boast farmland that has “massive” potential to help boost declining birds such as corn buntings and yellow hammers, as well as bees, hedgehogs and other wildlife.

To inform farmers’ decisions, RSPB conservation advisor Chris Tomson is offering free advice to any farmer in the area who is considering signing up.

Mr Tomson, who has nearly two decades of experience helping farmers apply successfully for wildlife-friendly farming initiatives, said: “This is a great new opportunity to join the Countryside Stewardship Scheme as there is less paperwork than before and no competition, meaning that all farmers who meet the eligibility requirements can get an agreement.

“The payments are good; for example farmers will receive £640 per hectare for winter bird food and £511 per hectare for nectar flower mix. For marginal parts of the farm or awkward field corners stewardship is worth considering as it guarantees income for the next five years and benefits farm wildlife.”

New five-year agreements under the Countryside Stewardship scheme will begin in January 2019 and Farming Minister George Eustice, who announced changes to the scheme on a visit to a farm near York in November, has asked farmers who have found previous rounds too complicated to apply for, to have another look at what is on offer.

Farmers interested in speaking to Mr Tomson about applying for funding can reach him on 07900 164 601 or by emailing [email protected]