Operation yellowhammer - how to ensure payments for farmers bring returns for everyone

Farmland © Guy Edwardes/2020VISION
New research by Wildlife Trusts, National Trusts and RSPB sets out the costs and benefits of investing in nature.

It is beyond debate that in order to restore the collapsing populations of wildlife in our country and put nature into recovery, farmland, at 71%* of land cover, will need to play a fundamentally important role.

Recognising this and acknowledging that society can't expect businesses to pivot without support, former Environment Secretary Michael Gove stated that post-EU our nation must use ‘public money for public goods’.

So rather than just subsidising the farming industry to to 'keep farming' and to produce affordable food, the public purse must be targeted on achieving long-term environmental benefits and creating sustainable natural resources. 

But when the UK has left the EU system, how much money should be allocated to schemes for farmers and landowners to provide public goods such as clean water, reduced flooding, carbon storage, pollination and protection of wildlife? How should we account for these services?

We have teamed up with National Trust and RSPB to calculate the costs of delivering these public goods and examine some of the critical factors that must be considered - such as such the role of alternative payment approaches and the fundamental importance of good quality advice from experts.

The estimated budget to pay for these public goods comes to at least £2.9 billion. This is just under the amount currently allocated through the existing EU 'CAP' scheme, showing that this direction of travel is not only essential, but affordable.

 

Yellowhammer

© Amy Lewis

Ask the experts

We know the impact that good advice and support can have - helping to transform farmland, build knowledge and skills among landowners and enable them to farm with nature into the future.

Our principle farm advisor, Alison Cross, is working with a group of 20 farmers in West Hampshire to improve the natural environment across 4,550 hectares of farmland in the Wallop Brook river catchment area.

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There is still everything to fight for in the delayed Agriculture Bill.  We are expecting draft legislation to be published soon and await news too of the promised Environment Bill.

We will continue to work with others in the sector to develop the thinking and evidence to support good policy making. 

We will also continue to hold Government's feet to the fire and ensure they deliver on their promise to leave the environment in a better state. 

The future of farming must ensure that land devoid of wild birds and pollinating insects, and with polluted streams and degraded soils is a thing of the past.