The UK government has confirmed its intention to pay farmers and landowners for biodiversity restoration from 2023, as part of its post-Brexit changes in agricultural policy.
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed today (January 6) that the Local Nature Recovery scheme – an incentive scheme that is part of the UK’s Land Use Bill post-Brexit agriculture – will be tested in 2023 and rolled out nationwide in 2024.
Under this program, farmers will be paid for actions that enhance biodiversity. Approved activities will include tree planting and other habitat creation – such as planting hedges or creating wildflower or wild herb meadows – as well as peatland and wetland restoration.
This program is intended to contribute to the promise of the Farm Bill to prevent farmers from being financially incentivized to overproduce at the expense of the environment.
The announcement of the Local Nature Recovery program follows Defra’s confirmation last month of the structure of the basic payment program. This framework will see farmers paid annually for land conservation. Many green groups and business organizations were simultaneously hoping for higher payouts and more clarity on all new programs.
The opening of Defra’s applications for the first round of funding under the new landscape recovery program is also announced today. First announced last summer, the program will help landowners and land managers make “more radical changes to land use and habitat restoration,” by funding large-scale products such as as the restoration of floodplains and wetlands and the creation of forests.
Up to 15 projects will receive a share of Defra funding under the first cycle of the program. Eligible projects must either be already underway or start by 2024, and they must take place on sites between 500 and 5,000 connected hectares. Defra aims to match its landscape-scale investments with farm-level investments and local investments by 2028.
Defra says that, collectively, the projects he proposes will sustainably manage up to 60% of England’s farmland by 2030 and restore up to 300,000 hectares of habitat by 2042. These achievements – if realized – would fuel long-term commitments to improve nature for the next generation and halt species decline by 2030.
Environment Secretary George Eustice will speak about the projects at the Oxford Agriculture Conference this week, where he is expected to highlight the government’s direct work with farmers.
A statement released by Eustice ahead of his appearance said, “We want to see profitable farm businesses producing nutritious food, supporting a growing rural economy, where nature recovers and people have better access to it.
“Through our new programs, we will work with farmers and land managers to stop the decline of species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase forests, improve water quality and air and create more space for nature.
“We are building these programs together and we are already working with over 3,000 farmers in the area to test and test our future approach. Farmers will be able to choose the program or the combination of programs that is best for their business, and we will help them do that. “
Green economy response
Responding to Defra’s announcements, Mark Tufnell, President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), called them “an important point in the future development of England’s agricultural policy”.
Tuffnell said: ‘Local nature recovery and landscape recovery programs have the potential to be transformative and bring England closer to the government’s environmental goals.
“The programs make it clear that the wants and needs of farmers and landowners have been heard by government. But this is only the start of a very ambitious and progressive plan. The real work is now starting to implement these programs successfully. More importantly, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that more details are shared on how this transition to the new regimes will be made. “
A joint statement from the Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and RSPB also implores Defra to provide more details on how the programs work, including eligibility criteria and how the government will measure results.
The statement also expresses its disappointment at the government’s plans to allow every farmer to “choose the best option for their business”, in the event that choices are made that ultimately undermine the results of long-term policy visions, including the 25-year environmental plan.
Wildlife Trusts Managing Director Craig Bennett said: “The real test of this agricultural transition is not so much whether it is a little better or moderately better than what came before, but whether it will be enough to meet the standards. government targets to get 30% of land managed for nature by 2030, halt the loss of abundant wildlife by 2030, implement the government’s own 25-year environmental plan and ensure that farmers are supported to help solve rather than make the problem worse. crises of nature and climate.
“Anything less than this means that this historic opportunity will have been wasted.
“As we hear the good rumors from the government, the devil will be in the details and the details are still not released almost six years after the EU referendum.”
Elsewhere, WWF Executive Director Tanya Steele stressed the importance of linking nature, economy and climate in agricultural policy making. She said:
“Helping farmers dramatically reduce agricultural emissions is the right vision. ‘The UK government must now put in place legally binding strategies and plans to reduce emissions from agriculture and land use that ensure farmers in England get the maximum benefit from the switch to a net zero farming system, positive for nature and help build the resilience of our food systems.
“This is a unique opportunity to rethink the way we manage our green and pleasant landscapes to stimulate farming communities, restore nature and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we need ambitious goals and bold policies. to achieve this. “
To mark New Years 2022, edie this week posted a roundup of the seven main UK green policy developments to watch out for in the coming months. Read it in full here.