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Free Content Farmer attitudes to cross-holding agri-environment schemes and their implications for Countryside Stewardship

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A literature review and on-line consultation (of 122 respondents from across the UK) revealed farmers’ perspectives of cross-holding agri-environment schemes (AES). The main concerns raised included; a culture of independent working, lack of existing farmer networks, the validity of farmer-farmer contracts, inadequate financial compensation, the need for third party support, farmers’ lack of knowledge of the environmental benefits of AES, and the scheme’s “small print”. The consultation added the following concerns; the need to offer “collaborative” and “coordinated” environmental management options, the belief that neighbours would not make willing or suitable collaborators, and possible facilitation of the spread of pest and diseases, including non-native invasive species. It uses these research findings to identify which of these concerns have been taken into account in the design of Countryside Stewardship (CS) the recently introduce replacement in England of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Suggested changes that may increase CS’s effectiveness in enhancing ecological networks include; provision of up-front financial support to farmer-group applications, allowing existing AES agreements to end before their due dates, and removing restrictions on the use of the Capital Grants element. Offering additional resource-based incentives to farmer-group applicants, such as reducing the area of land entered into “greening”, can be justified if the expected environmental benefits from cross-holding collective action do materialise.

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Keywords: Countryside Stewardship; Mid Tier; agri-environment scheme; collaboration; landscape scale

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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