Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is a scheme under which farmers and land managers are paid for effectively managing their land in a manner which protects and enhances the environment and wildlife.

Who is responsible for the scheme?

Natural England has responsibility for delivering the scheme on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

What are the aims of the scheme?

The aims of the Environmental Stewardship scheme are as follows:

  • to conserve wildlife (biodiversity);
  • to maintain and enhance the quality and character of the landscape;
  • to protect the historic environment;
  • to protect natural resources, such as water and soil;
  • to promote public access to and understanding of the countryside;
  • to conserve rare breeds;
  • flood risk management;
  • to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

How does the scheme work?

There are four elements to the scheme. They are as follows:

Entry Level Stewardship

Farmers and land managers can apply for Entry Level Stewardship even if they farm using conventional methods provided that they take some simple steps which are beneficial to the environment. Farmers and land managers who qualify for Entry Level Stewardship qualify for payments, currently at the rate of £30 per hectare per year or £8 per hectare per year if their land comprises of more than 15 hectares and is above the “Moorland Line”.

Farmers and land managers who are granted Entry Level Stewardship are required to enter into five year agreements.

Organic Entry Level Stewardship

Organic Entry Level Stewardship is similar to Entry Level Stewardship but because organic farming provides greater environmental benefits and is more expensive, higher payments are made to farmers who qualify for Organic Entry Level Stewardship. Currently they are paid £60 per hectare per year.

Farmers and land managers who farm organically are eligible to apply for Organic Entry Level Stewardship unless they are in receipt of Organic Farming Scheme aid. Farmers and land managers who are in the process of converting to organic farming are also eligible to apply.

Farmers and land managers who are granted Organic Entry Level Stewardship are required to enter into five year agreements.

Uplands Entry Level Stewardship

Uplands Entry Level Stewardship is available to farmers and land managers in “Severely Disadvantaged Areas” (i.e. hill farmers) who deliver specific environmental and landscape benefits that are not rewarded by the market.

Farmers and land managers who qualify for Uplands Entry Level Stewardship qualify for payments, currently at the following rates:

  • £62 per hectare per year for Severely Disadvantaged Areas below the “Moorland Line”;
  • £62 per hectare per year for Severely Disadvantaged Areas parcels of land smaller than 15 hectares above the “Moorland Line”;
  • £23 per hectare per year for Severely Disadvantaged Areas parcels of land larger than 15 hectares above the “Moorland Line”;
  • £5 per hectare for common land with two or more active graziers.

An Uplands Transitional Payment is available to farmers and land managers who successfully claimed under the previous Hill Farm Allowance scheme, but are unable to enter the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship due to them having continuing commitments under earlier schemes.

Farmers and land managers who are granted Uplands Entry Level Stewardship are required to enter into five year agreements.

Higher Level Stewardship

Higher Level Stewardship involves complex and specialised land management, which has high benefits to the environment.

Farmers and land managers who are granted Higher Level Stewardship can be paid to host farm visits for schools and special interest groups.

The sums paid to farmers and land managers who are granted Higher Level Stewardship varies depending on what steps they take under the scheme.

Farmers and land managers who are granted Higher Level Stewardship are required to enter into ten year agreements, which are tailored to local circumstances.