ARCHIVE: Entry Level Stewardship Handbook 2005 (PB10355)

Section 1 - Introduction and general information

1.1    Background

1.1.1    What is Environmental Stewardship?

Environmental Stewardship (ES) is a new agri-environment scheme which aims to secure widespread environmental benefits. The scheme has three elements:

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) is a ‘whole farm scheme’ open to all farmers and land managers. Acceptance will be guaranteed providing you can meet the scheme requirements. If you have a mix of conventionally and organically farmed land, or all your land is farmed organically, you should apply for OELS (see below).

Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) is a ‘whole farm scheme’ similar to ELS, open to farmers who manage all or part of their land organically and who are not receiving aid under the Organic Aid Scheme (OAS) or the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS). If any part of your farm is registered with an Organic Inspection Body, you should apply for OELS rather than ELS. To apply for OELS you will need a separate OELS application pack: this is available from your Rural Development Service (RDS) office. RDS contact details are provided in appendix 6 of this handbook.

Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), which will be combined with ELS or OELS options, aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high priority situations and areas. HLS is discretionary and concentrates on the more complex types of management where land managers need advice and support and where agreements need to be tailored to local circumstances. To apply for HLS you will need a separate HLS application pack: this is available from your RDS office.

1.1.2    What are the aims of Entry Level Stewardship?

ELS aims to encourage large numbers of farmers and land managers across England to deliver simple yet effective environmental management that goes beyond the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) requirement to maintain land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).

Defra has designed ELS to be simple to administer, with the minimum amount of paperwork. Anyone meeting all the scheme’s requirements will be accepted into the scheme.

If ELS is taken up across large areas of the countryside it will help to:

  • Improve water quality and reduce soil erosion - by encouraging management which can help to meet these aims;

  • Improve conditions for farmland wildlife - including birds, mammals, butterflies and bees;

  • Maintain and enhance landscape character - by helping to maintain important features such as traditional field boundaries;

  • Protect the historic environment - including archaeological features and artefacts.

1.1.3    How does the scheme work?

Detailed instructions are provided later in this handbook, but in summary the scheme works as follows.

If you are applying for ELS, you will first have to prepare a simple record of features on your farm (called the Farm Environment Record). This will be done using the Farm Environment Record (FER) map supplied by RDS.

When you request your pre-filled application form and maps you will also be given a ‘points target’. This is related to your farm size (see section 1.3.4 for details). There is no minimum holding size for entry into ELS.

You will be able to choose from a wide range of options (e.g. hedgerow management, low input grassland, buffer strips, management plans and options to protect soils), covering all farming types. Each option will earn ‘points’ (e.g. 400 points per hectare) towards your points total.

You have the flexibility to decide how much of each option to have, and where to put them, until you have chosen enough to reach your ‘points target’. You will need to mark the location of some of these options on the Options map provided by RDS (see section 2 for details of how to mark up your map). If you agree to deliver enough ELS options to meet your points target you will be guaranteed entry into the scheme.

1.1.4    What payments will I receive?

You will be paid a flat rate payment of 30 per hectare, per year, for all your eligible land, with the following exception:

For land parcels of 15 ha or more within the Less Favoured Area (LFA), you will be paid a rate of 8 per ha, per year. This rate will apply, even if you want to enter part of a 15 ha LFA land parcel.

Subject to section 7.5, the payment rate you receive for ELS will remain the same for the duration of your agreement.

1.1.5    What will I be required to do?

In applying for, and being accepted into, ELS you will be agreeing to:

  1. identify, map and retain your FER features (see section 2.3.2);
  2. deliver the options selected in your application form in accordance with the management requirements set out in section 3; and
  3. adhere to all the scheme terms and conditions contained in this handbook, and in particular to follow Good Farming Practice throughout your farm, and to comply with the other additional requirements contained in section 5.
1.1.6    How long will my agreement last?

Your agreement with Defra will be legally binding. It will run for five years and you will be required to fulfil your obligations for the full term of your agreement. You will incur a penalty if you withdraw from the scheme early or breach the terms of your agreement.

1.1.7    Will my details be made public?

To meet our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 we need to explain how we will handle the information you give us.

Because Environmental Stewardship involves expenditure of public money, there is public interest in how the money is spent. Therefore Defra, may in certain circumstances, make information about your application and agreement publicly available for this purpose. We may also need to disclose details about your application and agreement to other organisations or individuals for administration, evaluation or monitoring purposes.

Details disclosed may include your name, the name of your farm or business, grid references, the total area under agreement, the payment you receive, the location of fields and details of the environmental features and management options they contain. Such information may be released upon request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 or the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

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