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The Home of Rural Expertise and Advice

The Government continues to issue advice and updates adhering to this ever-changing situation we currently find ourselves in. 

Rural businesses cover a huge range of industries and activities across the South West, therefore, the impact of Covid-19 will be widely varied. We are ready to help, and it is in situations such as this where experience counts. 
Contact your local professional

Outlined below is advice and government guidance which we hope will be helpful. 

Key dates for your diary in 2021

The Farming sector has been impacted in a variety of ways, for some, activity will have continued largely unaffected. However, those with more diversified businesses will have had to adapt to the current restrictions.

We remain available to give both general and specific advice through this difficult period, please call or email in the normal way.

The NFU have provided a dedicated Coronavirus advice area, which provides useful information surrounding the current situation.

NFU advice site>>

What are the changes to BPS in 2021?

DEFRA and the RPA have made some key changes to BPS this year. These are:

1.       Removing the greening rules.

The following rules will be removed: Crop diversification | Ecological focus areas | Permanent grassland rules.

Greening monies will automatically be added to BPS entitlements so the amount claimed will not change due to the removal of greening.

2.       Farmers don’t need to use all their entitlements once every two years

3.       The window for applying for “Force Majeure” has been extended to 8 weeks

4.       Cross Compliance Changes

It has been made clear that the rules have not changed, however the RPA have made changes to ensure greater fairness for inspections and penalties which include:

  • Penalties will not be the default response to a breach
  • Penalties will be more proportionate through changes to the verifiable standards where possible
  • Allowing RPA to apply flexible approaches encouraging more constructive and advisory interactions
  • Targeting efforts to areas of high risk
  • Further information can be found in the “Guide to Cross Compliance 2021”

5.       Phasing out of Direct Payments begins

By now, I expect you will have heard about the reducing payments for BPS and the reduction payments from 2021 to 2024 which are below. These will apply to the total BPS payment including any young farmer payments.

In 2021 are you thinking of applying for Countryside Stewardship? How do you know which agreement type would be right for your farm?

Higher Tier (competitive)

Is aimed at farms with high environmental significance including SSSI’s, Scheduled Monuments and Priority Habitats. Due to the complex nature of these sites, one to one support from Natural England is provided to help draft the scheme.

Mid-Tier (competitive)

If you don’t have SSSI’s or Scheduled Monuments on your land but are looking to apply for an annual revenue payment and capital payments, Mid-Tier might be suitable.

Capital Grants (competitive)

The aim is to protect and enhance the natural environment by increasing biodiversity, boosting habitats and improving water and air quality.

There are 3 options, which between them cover 67 capital items:

  • Boundaries, Tress and Orchards
  • Water Quality
  • Air Quality (including options for Automatic slurry scrapers, low ammonia emission flooring for livestock buildings, planting trees)

This year, the grant limits have been increased to £20,000 per option, meaning the maximum amount available per SBI is £60,000.

Wildlife offers (non-competitive)

Aimed at benefiting pollinators, farmland birds and improved habitats. These agreements don’t include capital items but you can apply for a capital grant in addition, on the same land. Options under these offers are limited and not the same as those available under mid-tier. You aren’t eligible to apply for a wildlife offer if you have a SSSI, ELS or HLS or in an Inheritance Tax exemption agreement with HMRC.

  • Arable offer
  • Lowland grazing offer
  • Mixed farming offer
  • Upland offer

If you would like to discuss which type of agreement might be suitable for your farm in more detail, get in touch with professional team in Tiverton on 01884 235701.

There are also lots of announcements expected in 2021 with regard to the new ELM schemes replacing direct payments from 2024.  The “Farming is Changing” Booklet provides useful detail on the various of components of support in the future and what to expect from the new schemes, but here’s what we are expecting in 2021:

  • Early 2021 further information about National Pilot Scheme for ELMs including invitations of expressions of interest
  • February 2021 – details on Farmers in Protected Landscapes – funding through Protected Landscape bodies, in particular upland farmers
  • March 2021 – further information on the Farm Resilience Scheme (phase 2) providing support to farmers to help plan for the period ahead with applications opening in June 2021
  • April 2021 – further information on the Farm Investment FundEquipment & Technology, and transformation offering funding for equipment, technology an infrastructure that improves farm productivity and benefits the environment with application opening December 2021
  • June 2021 - Details on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) which will open in part from 2022
  • July 2021 – further information on the Lump Sum Exit Scheme, subject to consultation.
  • Throughout 2021- Co-designing of Animal Health and Welfare Pathway – designed to support farmers to produce healthier animals to the very highest standards of welfare
  • October 2021 – further information on the Innovation Research and Development Scheme
  • November 2021 – Further information on the New Entrant Support Scheme

For more information from the Farming is Changing booklet


The government have produced a guidance note, which outlines the restrictions and practices which must be adhered during these times. 

The complete guide can be found here >>

For our development and planning teams they are working remotely, and therefore, it is business as usual. They are able to continue with team and client meetings via video conferencing and telephone calls. They are keeping in regular contact with local planning authorities in order to keep clients as up to date as possible.

The planning system continues to function, however, the following should be noted:


There will inevitably be some delays given that the teams are also working from home. Authorities are finding it difficult to deal with the issuing of some information via email. Local authorities are handling this is different ways. There may be difficulties with posting site notices informing the public of applications, and in some cases the authorities are asking applicants to assist with this process.


The majority of these are now dealt with video conferencing.


There is inevitably disruption to site visits during this period of restrictive travel, therefore, some Councils are requesting additional photography to be included within submissions. The use of aerial photography, video footage and street view technology can also assist.


The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Section 78) allows the following provision ‘persons to attend, speak at, vote in, or otherwise participate in, local authority meetings without all of the persons, or without any of the persons, being together in the same place’. This therefore means that committees can meet via video conference.


The Planning Inspectorate has temporarily paused all appeals proceeding by way of hearing or public inquiry. Interested parties have submitted requests to PINs and the Secretary of State that by using video technology and adapting formats, these should be resumed shortly. 

Our three livestock centres; South Molton, Tavistock and Honiton Collection Centre remain open and operational, although adhering to strict guidelines to ensure the safety of both our staff and the public.

To keep up to date with their schedule of operation and outlined restrictions please visit our Agriculture Hub >>

In accordance with government guidelines we have postponed all our public auctions until further notice. In the meantime, we are using our well established online timed auction system to aid the rural community in the buying and selling of agricultural equipment.

For all forthcoming online sales please visit our Online Timed Auction page >>

National Farmers Union

Country Land and Business Association.

(Some is available to everyone and some requires a membership login to access.)

UK Government

Business Support 

Farmers, landowners and rural businesses 

We have put in place guidelines for both clients and also ourselves to allow us to proceed with inspections to allow formal valuations to be carried out in a safe manner. 

As well as having the luxury of a strong Estate Agency department, including specialist Farm Agency, Equestrian and Holiday Complex divisions, to provide us with up to date evidence and information on the latest activity levels and sales evidence we are also monitoring advice by the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) amongst others in the preparation of our reports. 

We are conscious that some have suffered delays and we will act to turnaround reports as efficiently as possible. 

For further information on the kind of valuations Stags can carry out please click here.