Water company pledges to offer long-term support
Farmers are being urged to seek private funding support alongside grants to bolster incomes as the basic payment scheme is phased out.
Spanning the majority of the Midlands, water company Severn Trent has offered a suite of funding and support for farmers in priority areas for over 10 years and is pledging to continue to help farmers navigate the agricultural transition through its array of schemes.
Severn Trent agricultural adviser, Mark Biddulph (below) updated Shropshire NFU members on the latest support on offer from the water company. “Severn Trent aims to work in close partnership with the agricultural community, to deliver water quality and farm productivity benefits,” he said.
“There are several key pollutants that, in close collaboration with farmers, we can protect watercourses from, through our array of grant schemes. These pollutants include pesticides, nitrates, and cryptosporidium.”
He outlined that funding is mainly on offer for those in priority catchments, talking through the 48 areas mapped out across the Midlands with an identified risk to water quality from one of the key pollutants.
In the past three years, Severn Trent’s flagship Environmental Protection Scheme, known as STEPS, has awarded £5.6 million of match funding to farmers looking to boost their environmental credentials.
Mr Biddulph explained that this year, the match funding on offer has doubled to a maximum of £10,000 for a vast array of environmental projects, while those investing in pesticide washdown areas can access up to £30,000.
“We’ve awarded over 2,000 STEPS grants to date, and we’re aiming to partner with more farmers and landowners across the catchment,” he said.
“There’s a huge variety to choose from – from newer options like direct drilling equipment and non-chemical weed control tools, such as inter-row hoes, right through to smaller capital items or even management changes, such as closed pesticide transfer systems, livestock drinking troughs, or reduced inputs.
“Whether you’re running an arable, livestock or horticultural business, there’s something for everyone. Applications are quick and easy, with in-person support available from your local agricultural adviser,” added Mr Biddulph.
Find your local agricultural adviser for more information on STEPS or application support, or apply online by 31 December, by visiting: www.stwater.co.uk/steps.
On top of options that help protect water quality, Mr Biddulph explained the range of biodiversity enhancing items available under, what we call ‘Spring STEPS’.
“This element of STEPS focuses on enhancing farm habitats and biodiversity, providing funding for options such as wildflower margins, pollinator meadows and diverse herbal leys,” he said.
Spring STEPS has a shorter application window, closing on 31 October. Applications also be made online or through your local agricultural adviser.
Swap Your Nozzles
For individuals applying pesticide in priority catchments, Severn Trent also offers a programme known as Swap Your Nozzles, to help maximise spray efficiency.
Mr Biddulph explained that this simple scheme offers a series of BASIS and NRoSO accredited online workshops to update farmers on the latest ways to reduce spray drift and minimise the risk of pesticides reaching watercourses.
“Upon completion of a training session, attendees will be offered a choice of a set of LERAP 3* or 4* low drift sprayer nozzles.
“The idea behind this being that we provide farmers with both the tools and knowledge required to protect the environment, at the same time as reducing spray input costs,” he said.
Test and protect
The final scheme highlighted by Mr Biddulph was a new offering, currently being piloted on livestock farms around South Shropshire, as well as areas of Leicestershire and Warwickshire.
For more details, please visit: www.stwater.co.uk/about-us/environment/working-with-farmers-and-land-managers/farming-for-water/