Many of the challenges have rolled into 2021 but, amidst the wreckage of the pandemic, there have been glimmers of hope. Some rural businesses successfully pivoted overnight, transforming their existing operations to provide something more suited for these uncertain times. When the British public was granted a bit more freedom over the summer, landowners opened new campsites to cater for the upsurge in demand or adapted their holiday accommodation to allow people to visit in a way that felt safe and secure. The space and tranquility offered by the countryside became a refuge for many. And many found themselves in high demand and worked around the clock to provide their products or services to those unable to leave their homes
Countryside Stewardship scheme re-opens
Landowners can once again apply to be part of a Countryside Stewardship scheme. The application window opened on 9 February for a number of options including Higher Tier, Mid Tier, Wildlife Offers and the new-look Woodland Creation and Maintenance grant.
Higher Tier applicants and those seeking New Capital Grants must submit their proposals to the RPA by 30 April, while Mid Tier and Wildlife Offers have until a deadline of 30 July. The woodland creation and woodland maintenance offers have been merged to form the Woodland Creation and Maintenance grant.
Agreements are scheduled to be offered between September and December for most schemes, although many previous applicants are still waiting to hear whether they have been accepted.
Go to gov.uk to find out more.
DEFRA opens gene editing consultation
Bolstered by the UK’s newfound independence from EU regulations, the government launched a consultation on gene editing. Its use is tightly restricted under EU law, but the UK is now potentially free to explore the technology’s potential, with possibilities including developing crops that are more resistant to extreme weather and disease. Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Environment Secretary George Eustice said the technology speeds up the natural breeding process that farmers have been doing for centuries.
The consultation will run until 17 March.
After a trade deal was agreed at the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve, there were hopes that 2021 would proceed smoothly in terms of UK-EU relations. Unfortunately customs red-tape led to reports of thousands of tonnes of meat being left to rot, delays, complicated paperwork and unforeseen costs leading to orders being cancelled. The seed potato industry was up in arms over the export ban on some 30,000 tonnes worth £13.5m too – at the time of writing, DEFRA is working to resolve the issue.