FARMERS and land managers can now request application packs for the new and improved 2018 Countryside Stewardship scheme.

The four simpler, and quicker to apply for, offers complement the existing Higher Tier and Mid Tier offers, but open the scheme to more farmers and land managers.

Unlike existing offers, Defra says all landowners who make a valid application for any of the new packages will be guaranteed funding through the scheme.

The application window is an opportunity for farmers new to Countryside Stewardship – or those coming out of previous stewardship agreements – to sign up for an agreement that will be guaranteed for its lifetime to protect wildlife, boost biodiversity and deliver environmental benefits.

The scheme has been simplified to save farmers’ time and reduce paperwork.

Farmers who meet the eligibility requirements for the new CS Offers can deliver as few as three options, or as many as seven and up to 14, depending on the offer applied for.

George Eustice, farming minister, said: “My message to farmers who’ve been put off Countryside Stewardship in the last few rounds is to take another look and see what’s on offer this year.

“We’ve listened to farmers and we’ve simplified the offering to create a universal scheme to appeal to farmers new to stewardship and those coming out of ELS so they can continue the good work on their farms.”

Farmers and land managers have until May 31 to request a paper application pack. Applicants can create their Online Arable Offer application pack from February 20.