The National Sheep Association (NSA) has cautiously welcomed the government’s next steps regarding future funding for environmental schemes in England.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker believes the announcement of a new, simplified countryside stewardship scheme will remove some uncertainty around changes to farm payments in future years.

He said: "The next few years will undoubtedly bring some difficult times with changes to the way farm payments are structured and what money will be paid for.

"Uncertainty has been rife for a long time, so we welcome at least some immediate direction being given regarding a new simplified countryside stewardship scheme that is open for applications as from today.

"We know that many farmers have not had a positive experience with stewardship. Many of the prescriptions have been too rigid and payments have been appallingly late.

"This new scheme will be an early test of Defra and the RPAs ability to do things differently following our departure from the European Union, but if environmental works and its income is important to a farm business then it has to be worth giving it a go."

Meanwhile, the NSA has welcomed John Cross to the role of Chair of Livestock Information Ltd.

Mr Stocker added: “I am delighted that John Cross has been appointed to this role.

"It is crucial that someone with a sound practical understanding of the industry, along with a good strategic mind and knowledge of government and industry structures is seated in this role."