Last week I posted a blog about paying by results in agri-environment schemes which generated lots of comments. Here’s another way that we could pay by results. Like any system, including the current failing one, this proposal has its problems of monitoring, cost, fairness etc but it’s worth thinking about alternatives when the current system doesn’t work well.
Let’s be up-front about the problems about this proposal – it’s easy to see how it would work for farmland birds but difficult to see how, in practice, it would work for any other aspects of agri-environment delivery. But if I float the idea then maybe others can see how it might work better.
This idea entails paying farmers for delivery of results regionally instead of solely on their own farm – it’s an ‘all in it together’ type proposal.
Recovery of farmland bird populations is an outcome which our public payments for agri-environment schemes should be delivering on the ground. And we have very good information from the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey of how the farmland bird index is doing in different parts of the country – so why not reward farmers if the index increases in their region?
A big advantage of this system is that it requires no extra data collection or analysis – it’s all done already (see here, here and here). A further consequence of the proposal would be that the more farmers do the right things that actually deliver for nature then the more that farmers would be paid through agri-environment. This would favour collaboration and peer pressure within the farming community to achieve better results.
The scheme could work through the payment by results payments being top-ups for all subscribing landowners in the region.
In the period 1995-2009 should Yorkshire’s farmers have had some reward for the increase in lapwing numbers? And In Yorkshire, skylark numbers increased a little bit too whereas my local farmers in the East Midlands presided over the largest English skylark decline over the same period. Starling losses are much of a muchnessacross England although in this case my local farmers and their neighbours in the East of England would do a little better than average because their declines were the smallest.
The data are there, they record something (although not the only thing) of importance and it wouldn’t cost anything extra. It won’t happen, I guess. But remember that we currently pour money into agricultural support that does not, generally, deliver the goods and too little is being done to solve this. Last year’s BBS report showed that the farmland bird index reached its lowest level since records began – and you are paying millions for this failing scheme.