The Government has announced the next stages of plans to reward farmers and landowners for actions that benefit the environment and support sustainable food production, as well as nature recovery and work towards net zero.
Two new environmental land management schemes are predicted to play an essential role in the decline of species by 2030, bringing up to 60% of England’s agricultural soil under sustainable management by 2030 and restoring up to 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat by 2042.
The Local Nature Recovery scheme will pay farmers for locally-targeted actions that make space for nature in the farmed landscape and countryside. The Landscape Recovery scheme will support more radical changes to land-use change and habitat restoration such as establishing new nature reserves, restoring floodplains or creating woodland and wetlands.
Taken with the Sustainable Farming Incentive, which is designed to support sustainable farming practices, the new schemes should provide farmers and landowners with a broad range of voluntary options to suit their business. More than 3,000 farmers are already testing the new schemes.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Environment Secretary George Eustice announced that applications will shortly open for the first wave of Landscape recovery projects. Up to 15 projects will be selected, focusing on recovering England’s threatened native species and restoring rivers and streams.
These pilot projects are expected to deliver significant environmental benefits including:
- The creation of 10,000 hectares of restored wildlife habitat;
- Carbon savings of between 25 to 50 kilotonnes per year – equivilant to taking between 12,000 and 25,000 cars off the road;
- Improved status of around half of the most threatened species in England, including the Eurasian curlew, sand lizard and water vole.
An early version of the Local Nature recovery scheme will be trialled in 2023 with a full rollout across the country in 2024.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We want to see profitable farming businesses producing nutritious food, underpinning a growing rural economy, where nature is recovering and people have better access to it.
“Through our new schemes, we are going to work with farmers and land managers to halt the decline in species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature.
“We are building these schemes together, and we are already working with over 3,000 farmers across the sector to test and trial our future approach. Farmers will be able to choose which scheme or combination of schemes works best for their business, and we will support them to do so.”
Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said: “Collectively, these schemes mark a historic shift in the way we manage our land, setting us on a course toward the production of sustainable food at the same time as rising to the urgent task of halting and reversing the decline of Nature.
“More than two-thirds of England is farmed and these reforms pave the way for those who manage the land to produce healthy food alongside other vital benefits, such as carbon storage, clean water, reduced flood risk, thriving wildlife and beautiful landscapes for everyone to enjoy.
“At Natural England we look forward to working with the government to breathe life into England’s Nature Recovery Network, including through the very exciting ambition to create large scale Landscape Recovery Areas.”
By 2028, Government spending is expected to be evenly split across farm level, locally tailored and landscape-scale investment. All the schemes will be voluntary and are designed to be accessible, supportive and with fair compensation.