Local farmers to trial policy ideas for farming and environment

PUBLISHED: 12:30 25 March 2020

Kate Ponting. Picture: Matt Austin

Kate Ponting. Picture: Matt Austin

Matt Austin

Guest columnist Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer, outlines Clinton Devon Estates’ thinking on how to support farmers and wildlife.

Our rural landscape and its managers face significant changes over the coming years, not least the uncertainty around future farming and wildlife support, post Brexit.

Challenges include the phased reduction of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS); which has supported agriculture for many decades.

Payments will be reduced from existing levels to zero by 2028. New legislation from government will be based on a clear demonstration of public benefit, described as ‘public money for public goods’.

In 2018, Defra announced that they were looking to trial and test new ideas for an Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

Clinton Devon Estates are keen to influence thinking on this and submitted a proposal to use parts of the estate, the first based around the River Otter and the other at Beer, to co-design alongside stakeholders and farmers what a future ELMS might look like.

With support from the Westcountry Rivers Trust and the Centre for Rural Policy Research at Exeter University with an array of civic and environmental partners including parish councils, East Devon AONB, the National Trust and the Environment Agency, we have now begun a two-year project to design bespoke schemes for these two areas.

Key features of the trial include: ensuring management plans for individual farms complement others in the catchment whilst supporting agricultural productivity and innovation; reducing environmental risk; maximising wildlife, supporting habitats and other ‘ecosystem services’; increasing local understanding and support for agriculture whilst adequately rewarding farmers for the many public benefits they provide.

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