Managing land more beneficially

Photo Credit: Les Firbank

Leaving the EU gives the UK an opportunity to rethink farm subsidies. The government is currently exploring how to incentivise farmers and land owners to improve water quality, soil health  and flood protection. This is where iCASP can help. The Agri-Land Management for Public Goods Delivery Project is going to review and consolidate the evidence on land management interventions which generate a wide range of public goods.

The Review will focus on a selection of land management activities currently undertaken in the River Ouse drainage basin area of Yorkshire, including those supported through Countryside Stewardship.

The project will provide insights into which interventions improve soil health, which in turn contributes to water quality improvements and flood protection. It will also consider the relationship between such interventions and food and fibre production, and whether food and fibre production is compatible with public goods provision.

The main questions that the review will address are:

  • What land management activities deliver public goods while also producing sustainable food and fibre yields?
  • What conditions are necessary for these activities to deliver public goods?
  • How confident are we in the evidence?

Existing evidence is published in a wide range of academic literature and reports (some more widely available than others) which has not been consolidated, nor packaged in a way that is easily accessible to stakeholders and government policy makers. This makes it hard to clarify the business case for delivering public goods which will hinder access to new funding mechanisms, and hinder capacity building efforts (including demonstrators)

Bringing the evidence together will therefore make it easier to determine which actions produce multiple-benefits  while ensuring that farm profit and yields are not negatively impacted, as well as showing the implications of certain activities on the delivery of public goods across a catchment scale. This is particularly important because any new agri-environment payment system  must achieve effective outcomes at catchment scale since this is the scale at which pollutants, soil erosion, and flooding have the most impact on many public goods.

This evidence review is urgently needed so that information can be considered by Defra, who have confirmed that they would welcome it as they develop new land-use policies for the UK, and also so that consensus judgement on the strength of the different evidence can be made more widely available to multiple stakeholders who are involved in informing the future of land-use policy in Yorkshire and the UK more broadly.