TO tackle air quality issues in the agricultural sector, DEFRA have signalled their intention to offer an extended range of grants in 2021.

But with the window for applications much reduced, David Morley, Head of Conservation & Environment at one of the North’s leading firm of chartered surveyors H&H Land & Estates, is encouraging farmers to start planning now.

Although the final details are yet to be announced, it is expected that Air Quality grants will be available for items and works that will help reduce ammonia emissions. Examples of these include: Low emissions flooring for buildings. Auto slurry scrapers. Shelter belt tree planting to intercept emissions or reduce airflow over manure heaps and slurry stores. David said: “The Air Quality grants will sit alongside the existing range of Water Capital grants, which cover items and works such as concrete yard renewal, replacement guttering and downpipes, roofing over muck middens and silage clamps, covers for slurry stores and new surfaced farm tracks, as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. As is the case with Water Capital grants, farmers will be able to apply for a standalone 2-year Air Quality grant agreement or incorporate Air Quality options into a full Mid- Tier application.

“For the 2021 Scheme Year, the current cap on standalone capital grant agreements will be raised from £10,000 to £20,000. This applies to Air Quality and Water Capital grants as well as the Hedgerows & Boundaries Grant, which provides funding for hedgerow restoration (laying, coppicing or gapping up) and dry-stone wall restoration. Applying for all three can, therefore, potentially provide up to £60k of grant funding without the need to apply for a multi-year management agreement. To be eligible for an Air Quality or Water Capital grant, however, the farm must be within one of the defined target areas.

“Still to be officially confirmed, it is expected that the application window for all standalone capital grants will run from around February 9 to the end of April. For Water Capital grants, this is much earlier than previous years’ end of July deadline. This short timescale, especially given the current lockdown situation, will put considerable pressure on Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers (CSFOs) and agents working on behalf of farmers. To ensure there is enough time to register interest with the local CSFO and provide them with the required information and evidence to endorse their application, farmers need to consider now whether they are likely to want to apply for a standalone capital grant.”

Farmers wishing to apply for Air Quality and Water Capital grants as part of a wider Mid-Tier application will still have until the end of July to apply. However, they must register their interest with the CSFO before the end of May.

For the first time the RPA will also be introducing caps on the capital grant elements of the scheme within Mid-Tier. The suggestion is that there will be an overall cap on capital items of £150k, with additional caps of £120k on Water Capital and Air Quality grant options and £50k on boundary restoration items.

DEFRA have announced in their “Path to Sustainable Farming” that there will be a Slurry Investment Scheme to provide capital funding to improve slurry storage.