Farmers should get paid for a range of benefits and services that society needs, such as healthy soils and clean water, according to a new report.
The Wildlife Trusts has published policy proposals for the future of farming and land management in England – entitled "What Next for Farming?"
The organisation believes that farmers should get paid for a range of benefits and services that society needs – but which farmers can’t directly sell as they can with food.
These benefits include healthy soils, clean water, clean air and climate change mitigation, flood risk management, better natural habitats, abundant pollinators and healthy people.
River Aire catchment
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has taken these policy proposals and applied them to the River Aire catchment – in a new report also published this week.
This case-study shows how changing policy in this way and directly contracting farmers could deliver public benefits and services.
It concludes that a move away from subsidy to direct public contracts for identified public goods, if managed well, would be "transformational" and secure environmental, quality of life and economic benefit.
The report states that a new contract – between land managers, the Government, taxpayers and consumers – could secure the future of not just wildlife, but farming communities.
Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager for Land Management at The Wildlife Trusts, said a "landscape-scale approach" is needed.
She said: “Our idea is to restore habitats and join them up, often by linking together farmers and targeting investment to where there is most need. We propose three public asset funds for land management, based on delivering the eight benefits.
“We propose a landscape-scale approach to land management because wildlife and wild places do not recognise boundaries and we need more space for wildlife by growing and joining habitats. These funds should be allocated through local environment plans that target action and investment to achieve nature’s recovery.
“This approach is based on ecological mapping – a spatial approach to identifying environmental needs through using local data and consultation with local people.”
Speakers from The Wildlife Trusts will be among panellists at an event at the Oxford Real Farming Conference on Friday 5 January.