FARMERS are being urged to explore how they can benefit from the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and access the environmental and economic opportunities of low-carbon farming.

AECS, which is currently open for applications, promotes appropriate management for species and habitats, strengthens ecological networks, controls invasive non-native species and enhances the condition of protected nature sites.

Speaking from H and H Land and Property, chartered surveyor Emily Mason explained the management options available for specific holdings: “The aim of the scheme is to protect and enhance Scotland's natural heritage, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as improve public access and preserve historic sites.

"The scheme, this year, opened on the January 16, 2019, and the application window will be open for 12 weeks until April 12. For collaborative projects which involve five or more businesses, the application window will run for a further seven weeks until May 31. The scheme lasts for five years and applications can be submitted until 2020 in order for them to honour payments of the five years.

"Applications for Slurry Storage can be made during the main AECS window, however, the deadline for standalone slurry store applications is June 26."

There are many different management options available, provided that a holding meets all relevant eligibility conditions:

  • Wild Bird Seed for Farmland Birds;
  • Grass Strips in Arable Fields ;
  • Water Margins in Arable Fields.
  • Water Margins in Grassland Fields;
  • Species-rich Grassland Management ,
  • Heath Management (Coastal, Serpentine, Lowland and Special Interest).
  • Control of invasive non-native species
  • Managing Steading Drainage and Rural Sustainable Drainage Systems;
  • Slurry Storage;
  • Management of Floodplains;
  • Hard Standings for Troughs and Gateways;
  • Livestock Tracks;
  • Livestock Crossing;
  • River Embankment Breaching, Lowering or Removal;
  • Restoring (Protecting) River Banks.
  • Public Access

If a scheme is approved, there is also eligibility to claim for Capital items, which are claimed on the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme capital claim form and can only be claimed once you have completed the work. These will primarily be for fencing and gates.

Since its inception in 2015, the scheme had provided more than £150 million to around 2500 applicants. The scheme is jointly delivered by the Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) of the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and jointly funded by the Scottish Government and the EU.

“If nothing is ventured, nothing is gained, and with so much uncertainty around the future of subsidies, you should utilise what is currently available," said Ms Mason. "Should an application be successful, it is guaranteed payments for five years.

"I would certainly recommend to check on the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Services website to see what management options are available to you," she concluded.