This information is intended for farmers who are piloting the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive.
How the standard works
This standard has a set of actions that you must take, if any, to get paid.
If you are already performing activities on your lot that meet the actions of this standard, you can use those areas instead of creating new ones. This means that you can keep existing zones to perform actions that require you to “create” or “establish” something.
Anything you do to complete an action counts only for that action. It will not be taken into account in other actions of the standard, unless otherwise indicated in this guide.
When to complete actions
Because the agreements will start at the earliest from November 2021, it will be too late to carry out certain actions that must take place after the harvest – for example, the establishment of a vegetation cover by the end of September or mid-October.
Perform these actions within 12 months of the start date of your agreement. This means that you can complete postharvest actions after harvest 2022.
Actions that require you to create a new habitat may not be practical during the winter months – for example, sowing a winter bird food mix. You must complete these actions within 12 months of the start date of your agreement.
How much you will be paid
You will be paid £ 49 per hectare of forest you enter the standard.
This payment rate is annual.
You will also get additional payouts for some actions – the amounts are listed with the actions.
You can request funding for capital items if you take the optional action of expanding your forest.
Which land is eligible
To be eligible for this standard, established woodlot blocks must be:
- over 15 years (woodlots under 15 years old may be eligible for the optional woodlot maintenance action)
- more than 20 meters wide on average
- an area greater than 0.5 hectare
Woodlands classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are not eligible.
Changes made to the terrain because you perform actions
The land must be eligible on the start date of your agreement.
Changes to land use, composition, or land cover that occur because you perform the actions of this standard do not affect eligibility and you will continue to be paid under this standard, at the level ambition that you have chosen.
You need to do the following:
1. Perform a woodlot condition assessment
This action will increase your knowledge of your woodlot and inform future management.
You only need to do a woodlot condition assessment once in the first year of your agreement. You will receive a one-time additional payment of £ 100.
You must complete the assessment for all the plots listed in the forest standard. Each wooden block or existing compartment must contain at least one study plot.
You must keep your assessment of the condition of the woodlot. You don’t need to send it to us unless we ask you to.
Information on wood condition assessments
How you perform this action is up to you, but you can read information on how to perform a wood condition assessment.
You must keep a copy of your woodlot condition assessment.
2. Attend a webinar on forest threats
The webinar covers threats to your forest such as:
- pests and diseases
You only need to attend the Forest Threat Awareness webinar once, ideally in the first year of your agreement.
You will receive an additional one-time payment of £ 25.
The webinar will be available from October, when your deal goes live.
You must keep your confirmation of attendance for the webinar. You don’t need to send it to us unless we ask you to.
3. Create temporary open spaces and manage the rides
This action will increase connectivity between habitats.
Aim for about 15% of each block of wood to be temporary open space – you should have a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 20%.
You should not create a new open space in an old growth forest.
If you need to chop down trees to create an open space, you should check to see if you need a permit to chop down trees.
Information on the creation and maintenance of open spaces in the forest
How you perform this action is up to you, but you can read some information on creating and managing open spaces in the woods.
4. Create and manage dead wood in the forest
This action provides habitat for wildlife and increases carbon stocks.
Aim for a minimum of 20 cubic meters per hectare of standing and fallen dead wood.
If you need to cut down trees to create deadwood, you should check to see if you need a tree cutting permit.
Deadwood management information
How you perform this action is up to you, but you can read some information on how to deal with deadwood for the benefit of wildlife.
You can also perform the following optional actions if you meet the criteria.
1. Expand your forest
Expand your forest with small-scale tree planting.
Plant between 0.1 and 0.5 hectares, on arable or improved grassland next to established forests only. To qualify as an improved grassland, the composition of the grass must include at least 2 of the following:
- more than 30% covered with ryegrass and white clover
- up to 8 species per m2, including grasses
- less than 10% wildflower and sedge cover, excluding white clover, creeping buttercup, docks, thistles and tansy ragwort
You can request capital goods, including supplying and planting a tree and fencing items to expand your forest.
You may want to keep some evidence to support this action.
This is in case the actions you have taken and the objectives or results achieved are not clear during remote monitoring or during site visits.
Information on the extension of an existing woodlot
How you perform this action is up to you, but you can read information on how to plant trees to expand existing forests.
2. Maintain a woodlot less than 15 years old
If you keep wooded areas planted over the past 15 years you will get an additional £ 200 / ha / year.
Do not use herbicides if you are planting trees on land next to a waterway.
Information on maintaining a new tree plantation
How you perform this action is up to you, but you can read some information on how to keep planting new trees.
Other tips and information
For more advice on implementing the actions described in this standard, read the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive Pilot: Advice Summary.
Learn more about how this standard will respond to the outcomes and environmental benefits of the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive Pilot Project.
Financing of fixed assets
As a participant in the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive Pilot Project, you will be able to apply for grants for the following capital items if you take the optional action of expanding your forest:
You will apply through the Countryside Stewardship Capital Grants program from the start of 2022. If you are successful, you will receive a separate Countryside Stewardship Capital Grants agreement. To be eligible for this funding, you must not begin capital work (or order equipment) until the start of your Countryside Stewardship Capital Grant Agreement.
More information will be published before the opening of applications.
Follow-up and support
The pilot project to encourage sustainable agriculture will use a new model for monitoring agreements. It will focus on results and improvement rather than penalties.
Once your agreement has started, we will use a variety of techniques to see if you are meeting the goals of the standards.
Learn more about:
Additional standards you can apply to this land
The land parcels you use for this standard cannot be entered into any other standard.
See all the pilot tips for encouraging sustainable agriculture.