A trial scheme in the Yorkshire Dales, which could influence how farmers nationally are paid for delivering environmental results post-Brexit, is being extended for two years in a deal worth more than a quarter of a million pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Nineteen cattle and sheep farmers in Wensleydale have been taking part in a pilot scheme which sees them carry out measures to manage meadows or turn pastures into good habitat for wading birds, and get paid for the gains they deliver.
It is designed to give farmers more flexible and locally-dictated methods of boosting the environment than allowed under precisely prescribed management options drafted in accordance with European Union rules.
The pilot scheme was set to run out of EU funding next month but the Government has now responded to a request by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to bankroll the scheme into the future.
The scheme will be funded for the next two years, sharing an equal slice of £540,000 with a payments by results scheme focussed on gains for pollinators in Norfolk and Suffolk.
It is the first time the UK has directly funded an agri-environment scheme.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “The payment by results pilot marks a shift in how we think about rewarding farmers for their work.
“This approach signals how we see the future of farm payments, where farmers deliver public goods for the environment which we all enjoy.”
He said that further farming trials will take place post-Brexit to reach a new model for the industry “where profitable farm businesses and environmental land management can co-exist and complement one another”.
Carl Lis, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, welcomed the Government’s decision to fund the scheme, saying: “The pilot scheme has been a hit with farmers 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.
“The better the environmental results, the more they get paid.”
The pilot scheme is delivered by Natural England in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
It started almost two years ago and has already produced some “excellent” environmental results, Mr Lis said.