DEFRA’S decision to double the total Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier agreements processed by 2025 has been welcomed by nature-friendly farmers.

This move aims to expand access to higher levels of support, with an anticipated increase in successful applications by the end of 2025 or the beginning of 2026.

The Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) expressed “delight” at this decision, highlighting that successful applications to these schemes had dropped by 80 per cent over the past decade.

The NFFN previously raised concerns about policymakers neglecting upland areas and leaving farmers with insufficient financial support to contribute to nature-friendly outcomes.

James Robinson, a Cumbrian organic dairy farmer who chairs the NFFN England, led a campaign last year promoting greater access to higher tier schemes.

Thousands supported his petition to Defra, urging reconsideration with letters sent to MPs.

James emphasised the success of the campaign, stating: “It makes absolute sense for farmers who want to be more ambitious in driving change to have access to the Higher Tier agreements. They reward those farmers who want to go further and do more for nature.

“There are farmers who have been trying to get into the higher tier schemes for a couple of years now and hopefully this will open the agreements up to them and others like them.”

The petition gathered over 2,750 signatures and farmers sent letters to politicians in constituencies where upland farming significantly contributes to the local economy.