New round of government fund for collaborative farming communities

Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund to reopen in December following continued successful uptake.

A sixth round of the popular Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund has been announced recently (13 September), 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 invaluable 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.

As highlighted in the latest evaluation report of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund, published last month by Natural England, the scheme plays a significant role in fostering and strengthening an engaged, collaborative and environmentally aware farming community.

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. With today’s announcement, 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

RPA 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. As part of our commitment to a successful agricultural transition to newer schemes, we will continue to deliver schemes that people can enter now. We are looking to simplify these where we can and with this round of funding we will be refreshing the guidance to participants to make it clearer and easier to access the fund. We would encourage uptake from new and existing groups which will support the delivery of large-scale environmental improvement in their local areas.

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.

Further information

  • Countryside Stewardship is administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Natural England provides technical advice in support of the scheme.
  • The Countryside Stewardship facilitation fund supports facilitators (individuals and organisations) who bring farmers, foresters, and other land managers together to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale.
  • You can find more information about the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund on the main Facilitation Fund page.
  • Full details on how to apply will be published on the main Facilitation Fund page later in the year.
  • In order to apply, facilitators will need to be registered with RPA.