Image for New farm subsidy scheme declared a win for wildlife

New farm subsidy scheme declared a win for wildlife

A trial subsidy scheme that rewards farmers for boosting biodiversity on their land has been extended after yielding positive results for nature

A trial subsidy scheme that rewards farmers for boosting biodiversity on their land has been extended after yielding positive results for nature

The two-year pilot was carried out on farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire. According to Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which led the trial, participating farms had 43 per cent more seed-bearing plants than nearby sites that claim existing subsidies. Such plants provide a rich food source for birds in winter.

The trial was co-funded by the European Commission and could help inform future agri-environmental subsidies in the UK as the country leaves the EU.

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Unlike current agri-environment schemes, where payments are fixed and land management techniques prescribed, the ‘payments by results’ pilot gives farmers the freedom to choose how they manage their land to improve biodiversity.

Farmers involved in the trial had access to training and reported feeling more motivated to manage their land in a way that enhances nature. Defra has decided to extend the pilot for another two and a half years.

“I have been struck by the resourcefulness and passion this pilot has inspired to deliver for nature on working farms,” said Tony Juniper, Natural England’s chair. “Farmers must be front and centre in efforts to restore the natural environment and these results reveal huge potential for the future.”

Image: Gary Butterfield

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