By Johann Tasker

Farmers Weekly

Defra has announced details of the first woodland and water capital grants available under the first phase of the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Natural England will be accepting applications for Water Capital Grants from 2 March.

Providing £10m worth of government funding to the farm industry, these grants will fund new projects to reduce the impact agriculture can have on water quality.

See also: Sharp fall in agri-environment agreements predicted

Environment minister Dan Rogerson made the announcement a week after applications were invited for Woodland Capital Grants.

Farmers, land managers and foresters can now apply for grants, worth a total of £4m to create new woodland, protect existing forests and restore tree health.

Mr Rogerson said: “These grants are just one part of the wider Countryside Stewardship Scheme that will see millions of pounds worth of investment to help farmers and land managers protect the environment, building a stronger rural economy and fairer society.”

The new water grants build on the Catchment Sensitive Farming Scheme. Between 2011 and 2014, over 6,200 farms across the country benefitted from a total of £72m, according to Defra figures – helping to protect water resources.

With the government funding up to half the cost of such schemes, Mr Rogerson said farmers had been able to reduce the agriculture industry’s impact on water quality, protect the water environment and boost efficiency.

The Water and Woodland Capital Grants make up the first phase of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Set to be rolled out in full later in the summer, Countryside Stewardship will commit around £900m to schemes that benefit the environment over the next six years.

Countryside Stewardship is the rural development part of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy.

Its aim is to help farmers and land managers develop environmentally friendly techniques and adopt initiatives such as restoring hedges and improving water quality.

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