Defra Secretary Michael Gove has announced that the Government will fully fund a revolutionary agri-environment scheme based on the ‘Payment By Results’ (PBR) principle.
Under the terms of the PBR project, which is taking place in two locations in England, Wensleydale and Norfolk/Suffolk, farmers are free to manage their land as they see fit in order to achieve positive environmental outcomes.
The idea has been popular among farmers because it removes prescriptive rules, such as mowing dates, which they are usually required to follow.
Previously, the PBR project was funded by the EU and was due to finish at the end of this year, but it will now become the first ever agri-environment scheme to be directly funded by the UK Government.
£540,000 has been granted, which will be spent over the next two years.
Mr 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.
“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.
“I am delighted to extend this scheme and look forward to seeing further evidence of its success as we plan for our future outside the EU.”
In Wensleydale, the PBR project is delivered by Natural England in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
Sheep and cattle farmers managing grassland in the area have been rewarded for producing habitat suitable for breeding waders or managing species-rich meadows.
In Norfolk and Suffolk, arable farmers have been paid for their management of plots which 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.
Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Carl Lis, said he was delighted the project had been extended.
“The pilot scheme has been a hit with farmers because it has been designed and delivered locally – and because it puts the farmer back in control of how the land is managed, rather than having to follow very detailed and rigid prescriptions,” he added.
“With support from our farm team advisers, and the Natural England project manager, the 19 farmers in the scheme have produced some excellent environmental results in a short time. The better the environmental results, the more they get paid.”