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A new way of paying for farming to benefit nature

Highland cattle conservation grazing above the village of Malham, Yorkshire Dales National Park
Highland cattle conservation grazing above the village of Malham | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

We all know that our wildlife is facing a serious challenge, and we are working hard to make improvements for our amazing habitats and species. Many of these are found on farmed land and we have accordingly made nature-friendly farming a priority.

In the Yorkshire Dales we are working with National Trust farm tenants to trial a new approach to payments for methods of farming which result in a better outcome for the environment.

Many farmers are already managing their land in a way that benefits wildlife and our trial will build on that enthusiasm and knowledge.

A results-based approach for a win-win scenario

Current payments for environmentally-friendly farming require specific management methods, but we are putting the emphasis on the outcomes for the environment – often called a ‘results-based’ approach.

We provide training and advice to farmers on more sustainable ways of managing their land, but the idea is that they use their own knowledge to achieve more for nature. The better the outcome for nature: the higher the payment.

Our focus is on soils and pollinators which are crucially important for productive farming and our ecosystems, so healthier soils and better habitats for pollinators are a win-win.

Sheep in Yockenthwaite meadows at Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire
Sheep in Yockenthwaite meadows at Upper Wharfedale | © National Trust Images/Peter Katic

Drawing on farming expertise

Farmers have played a central role in the trial, taking part in monitoring, telling other farmers what it’s been like to take part, and providing feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

We have also been able to draw on the expertise of other organisations, such as the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which has valuable experience of this results-based approach to environmental payments for agriculture. Our work on developing outcomes for pollinators has also benefited from input from the charity Buglife.

Specialist advice, detailed feedback from farmers and the analysis of the field surveys will feed into our conclusions about the trial, which is due to end at some point this year.

We will share our findings widely, including with policy makers, because we hope that this approach can be a way forward for government-funded schemes in the future.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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