There are three main areas of the green economy which hold financial opportunity for farmers and land managers, says Susan Twining, chief land use policy adviser at the CLA.
The first financial opportunity is the Government’s proposed Environmental Land Management scheme, which is likely to form the bulk of support payments postBrexit.
Wales is working on a similar scheme, while Scotland is yet to formulate its.
Level of budget is still unknown though, says Ms Twining.
The second pot could come from housing developers: Under the Environment Bill, which is yet to be passed, housing developers will have to increase biodiversity (see more in ‘case study’, above), most likely by paying farmers to do it.
“There are various estimates of what that could be worth, but it’s not an insignificant pot,” says Ms Twining.
However, it needs to be distributed so that it does not exclude farmers far from developments.
The third opportunity, could come from carbon markets, says Ms Twining, whereby a company, individual, or organisation pays farmers to sequest carbon, using an accredited scheme and brokers.
The Woodland Trust and Forest Carbon are examples of current brokers, but there are many more.
In addition, a Woodland Carbon Guarantee has just been announced, with £50 million available for planting trees.
Understand deals “There will be lots of new players entering the carbon trading market,” says Ms Twining.
“Our concern is that people understand the deals they are entering.
“Offers of upfront payments for activities such as tree planting sound tempting, but if the trees die you may have to pay the money back.
Carbon is something real, like selling grain, so you need to treat it like that – you are committed to delivering.
“Be fully aware of contracts, what you will be expected to deliver and what happens at the end of the term.
Who will own the timber, for example?”
At least 40% of global gross domestic product relies on nature, yet the UK has lost 60% of its priority species since 1970, says professor David Hill, chair of The Environment Bank.
To help redress this, the Government plans to require housing development to not only offset biodiversity loss, but increase biodiversity, referred to as ‘biodiversity or environmental net gain’.
In preparation for this and to start tapping into current demands, The Environment Bank has been working with farmers and land managers, brokering deals and creating a national register of sites.
So far, 77 local planning authorities have engaged.
Prof Hill says: “If nature has a cost, then it has a price and value.
The estimated value of the UK biodiversity net gain market is £54 million-£1.2 billion annually.
We pay farmers on 30-year contracts – signed agreements with developers.”
Farmer-led groups Jessica Brooks, farmland biodiversity adviser at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, has been working with the Martin Down Farm Cluster – 120 farmer-led groups creating environmental and habitat banks.
She is in discussion with The Environment Bank and believes working as a group will give farmers a greater chance of accessing new environmental markets.
“Many developers, companies and retail corporations are required to or have voluntarily created funds to spend on environmental projects, and they will be looking for ones which operate ambitiously,” she says.
“Farmer clusters are obvious candidates for this money.
With advice, better agri-environment support from Government and substantial and long-term funds from the private sector, we can unleash the potential of these landscape-scale groups.”