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Natural England Launches Free Farm Visits and Support for ELS
2011-09-26

Natural England has launched a new service of one-to-one farm visits to help farmers in Entry Level Stewardship get the most out of their ELS agreements.

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Whitebred Shorthorn Cattle

Existing ELS holders can now request a free on-farm visit from an experienced adviser to discuss the ongoing management of their agreement and how it can best achieve environmental benefits.

Up to 2000 of the new visits are being made available to ELS agreement holders per year, with an additional 4000 places available at group events, including farm walks and workshops.

Natural England is rolling out the visits to complement the advice service it provides to prospective agreement holders. The new visits will provide an opportunity for farmers already in ELS schemes - including Organic ELS and Upland ELS - to discuss practical measures that could be introduced to benefit the environment without impacting unnecessarily on farming operations. Advice will be available on the best places to locate options within the holding, on weed control, seed mixes, establishment measures and trimming of mature hedgerows. Guidance will also be provided on how to implement changes to existing agreements, including alterations to the options that have been selected. Bookings for the new advice visits - which are not farm inspections - can be made now through the contact details below.

Ian Fugler, Natural England’s Director of Land Management said: ‘‘These face to face farm visits offer our agreement holders the opportunity and support to review how their ELS and UELS options are working on the ground, and will help to identify any changes necessary in the future management of their options. There is also the chance to amend existing agreements to include more of the priority options, improve option location and consider how they connect together across the farm. As well as benefitting farm businesses, this will mean greater benefits from ELS/UELS for wildlife, farmland birds, water and soil protection and the historic environment’’.

Charles Rudge of White House Farm, Ross-on-Wye said: ‘‘I renewed my ELS agreement just over a year ago and have implemented various options to benefit wildlife on the farm. I will be requesting a follow up farm visit to get some further guidance on how best to manage my field margins and get the most out of the nectar and pollen mix. It will be a valuable chance for me to re-examine my options selection and make the choices that are right for my business.’’

An additional area of advice will be to explain how key options within Entry Level Stewardship, such as pollen and nectar mixtures, directly contribute to the objectives of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE). CFE aims to retain and exceed the environmental benefits that used to be provided by set-aside by using a voluntary approach to avoid regulation, through a number of management options.

To request a farm visit or to find out about planned events please contact Natural England’s Farm Events Team 0300 060 1695 or email farmevents@naturalengland.org.uk

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