UK environment, food and rural affairs minister, Michael Gove, told the Oxford Farming Conference that that country’s government would design a scheme that was accessible to any land owner or manager.
Under the scheme, those who planted woodland, provide habitat for wildlife, increase biodiversity, contribute to improved water quality and return cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states, would receive payment.
“We will also make additional money available for those who wish to collaborate to secure environmental improvements collectively at landscape scale,” he said.
Gove said leaving the European Union(EU) allowed the UK government to deliver the policies required to achieve that.
Under the EU Common Agricultural Policy farmers had been encouraged to focus on overall yield, rather than productivity in particular.
“This has led to decades of damage in the form of significant and destructive soil erosion – estimated in one study by Cranfield University to cost the UK economy around £1,2 billion (R20 billion) every year,” Gove said.
“We now have opportunity to reverse this unhappy trend. Sustainably managed land is far more productive than land that is stressed and stripped of its nutrients.”
Gove conceded, however, that moving to more sustainable and, ultimately, productive farming methods could involve transitional costs and pressures.
“We plan to provide new support for those who choose to farm in the most sustainable fashion,” he said.
This new policy was welcomed by the organic food group Soil Association.
“We now need to see more detail on how farmers will be enabled and encouraged to shift to higher animal welfare systems, move away from synthetic pesticides, restore degraded soils and improve water quality,” it said in a statement.
“The government must also make an ambitious and unambiguous commitment to organic and other agroecological approaches which are proven to deliver on animal welfare, biodiversity, soil health and climate change.”