‘Payment by Results’ nature farming pilot gets £540,000 boost - marking a shift in government thinking

A scheme which pays farmers for delivering wildlife results on their land has won a £540,000 Defra f

A scheme which pays farmers for delivering wildlife results on their land has won a £540,000 Defra funding boost. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

A pilot project which pays East Anglian farmers for delivering results for nature on their land will become the first agri-environment scheme directly funded by the UK.

The Payment by Results (PBR) scheme is an EU pilot which had been due to conclude at the end of 2018, but Defra has announced £540,000 of new funding to allow it to continue for two more years.

The trial provides training and guidance for farmers so they are empowered to create their own wildlife management plan for their land, specifically tailored to the environmental needs of their area.

It has been paying participants in two areas – in Norfolk and Suffolk, arable farmers are using the grants to plant nectar plots for bees and other pollinators, while in Wensleydale in Yorkshire they are focused on managing species-rich meadows.

PBR will become the first UK agri-environment scheme to be funded independently of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which currently governs UK farming regulation and subsidies.

The government has signalled it wants to move away from the current system of land-based subsidies after Brexit, in favour of a new domestic scheme paying public money for 'public goods' such as creating wildlife habitat, protecting landscapes, reducing flooding and improving air quality.

Environment secretary Michael Gove, said: 'Under the CAP, agri-environment schemes have been overly bureaucratic and inflexible. This has impeded innovation for farmers who are passionate about the environment and want to see real change.

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'The Payment by Results pilot marks a shift in how we think about rewarding farmers for their work. This approach signals how we see the future of farm payments, where farmers deliver public goods for the environment which we all enjoy.'

The trial participants in Norfolk and Suffolk have been paid for their management of plots that provide winter food for farmland birds during the 'hungry gap' when natural sources of seed food have been depleted. They have also planted and maintained flower-rich foraging habitat for pollinators, protecting this important part of the ecosystem.