A positive future for green farming

Trees reflected in the lake at Stourhead, Wiltshire, in May.

We’re working on a project with think tank Green Alliance to produce a new model for supporting green land management. New markets worth millions per year could help to support farming methods that reduce flooding, provide clean water and restore wildlife, for the benefit of all.

How would this model work?

A Natural Infrastructure Scheme would see groups of farmers working together to sell flood protection and clean water to water and infrastructure companies and public authorities.

This model could benefit upland farmers who are likely to be the first impacted by Brexit and see savings for organisations currently facing high costs from poor water quality and flooding.  

Our latest report, Protecting our assets: using Natural Infrastructure Schemes to support sustainable agriculture, also showed how the model would work in a lowland arable area, using East Anglia as an example, for a project which would boost food production, clean water resources and protect our precious soils.

This approach could also provide additional benefits on top of the core offer of reducing flood risk and cleaning up and avoiding water pollution. Wider benefits like public access or specialist habitat management could provide much bigger benefits for society and the environment.

What do we need to make this work?

Businesses, farmers and conservation organisations can all help make these ideas take off, but the UK Government and the devolved governments can also play a role by:

  • Providing seed funding through development grants to fund the initial costs of setting up institutional arrangements for land managers and the area based purchasing consortia.
  • Removing policy and regulatory barriers by providing the derogations and licences required at the demonstration stage, and by working with project partners to create the legal framework for mainstream delivery.
  • Creating space for markets by considering the potential role of ecosystem services as it assesses and devises its replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy in the UK.

What are the next steps?

We’re working with Green Alliance, alongside leading landowners and businesses, to develop and test this concept and will continue to share our learnings.