As part of a programme of ‘tests and trials’ for future farming policy, a popular Payment by Results (PBR) pilot farm support scheme has received two years of further funding. This pilot scheme was run by the government agency Natural England to try out new ways to incentivise farmers to deliver environmental outcomes.
The new scheme aims to replace the European Common Agricultural Policy payments and agri-environment schemes when the country leaves the EU, which have been considered unwieldy, overly complex and ineffective.
The PBR pilot is currently taking place in Norfolk and Suffolk in the East of England and Wensleydale in Yorkshire, each work having been specifically tailored to the environmental needs of their area. For example, in Norfolk and Suffolk farmers are benefitting from planting nectar plots for bees and other pollinators, while those in Wensleydale are focused on managing species-rich meadows.
A new, universally available Land Management Support scheme has been proposed, with three elements to it: a menu of outcomes, an organic scheme, and a whole farm scheme. Specific strands would be then available to boost agro-forestry, extensive pasture-based livestock, horticulture, new entrants and succession planning. For schemes to work, a strong level of resources must go into new, affordable and accessible advisory services, training and farmer facilitation.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs mentioned that the scheme is popular “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”. Farmer engagement is clearly crucial but it is vital they deliver measurable results on the ground and that all farmers can access the new schemes.