A new way of paying for farming that benefits the environment

Pollinator on flower

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 habitats and species are found on farmed land and we have 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.

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.

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

Belted Galloway cow grazing in the Dales
Belted Galloway cow
Belted Galloway cow grazing in the Dales

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 benefited from input from 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 in 2022. 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.