Farmers will be able to bid for funds in order to repurpose land towards wildlife restoration, carbon sequestration, or flood prevention projects.
Farmers previously received considerable portions of their income from EU payments, based upon how much land they farmed. In 2020 £3.5bn was paid to UK farmers under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
The government has announced two new schemes; the Local Nature Recovery (LNR) and Landscape Recovery (LSR) schemes. The LNR will pay incentives for farmers who make changes to make their land more nature friendly, by creating wildlife habitats and planting trees. Meanwhile, the LSR will focus on repurposing land to recreate woodlands, wetlands and floodplains.
The changes will see farmers now receiving funding based upon their treatment of the environment, rather than the quantity of land farmed.
Under the new government policy, 10 to 15 pilot projects are expected to be allocated to areas of land between 500 and 5,000 hectares, with the intention of at least 10,000 hectares being rededicated to rewilding and wildlife recovery over the next two years.
The schemes aim to achieve the following goals:
- Halt the decline in native species
- Bring up to 60% of England’s agricultural soil under sustainable management
- By 2042, restore up to 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“What we’re moving to is a more generous set of incentives for farmers doing the right thing,”
“We can have both sustainable, profitable food production, and see a recovery for nature as well.”
Some farmers and wildlife organisations have criticised the schemes for lacking detail about how funding will be allocated.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said:
“While we’re hearing the right noises from the government, the devil will be in the detail, and the detail is still not published nearly six years after the EU referendum.”
Others have raised fears that new free trade agreements made by the UK might put domestic farmers in direct competition with imported produce from countries with less environmental regulations.
President of the Country Land and Business Association, Mark Tufnell, said:
“The government must also ensure that policy changes look towards domestic food production and security. Britain is already at the forefront of agricultural innovation and animal welfare standards, and we must do more to make certain that our great produce is supported here and abroad. We need to guarantee that profitable agriculture remains a core part of the rural economy and feeds the nation sustainably.”
Some Tenant farmers have raised concerns about how they may be able to access the funds and that the rewilding schemes may be used by their landlords to remove their tenancies. The land worked by tenant farmers accounts for around 30% of UK farmland.
George Dunn, of the Tenant Farmers Association, said:
“It is alarming that, after at least three years of discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it has no clear plan for access to these schemes by tenant farmers.”