Government funds Wensleydale agri-environment scheme

Askrigg in Wensleydale. Photo: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The Environment Secretary has announced that a ‘Payment by Results’ project being piloted in Wensleydale will be the first agri-environment scheme directly funded by the UK.

Michael Gove said such schemes were “the future”.

Nineteen farmers are in the Wensleydale scheme, which is being delivered by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, with Natural England doing the overall project management.

The pilot was originally funded by the EU until this September; Defra’s decision means it will be extended for at least two years.

Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove said: “Under the Common Agricultural Policy, agri-environment schemes have been overly bureaucratic and inflexible.

“This has impeded innovation for farmers who are passionate about the environment and want to see real change.

“The Payment by Results pilot marks a shift in how we think about rewarding farmers for their work. This approach signals how we see the future of farm payments, where farmers deliver public goods for the environment which we all enjoy.

“I am delighted to extend this scheme and look forward to seeing further evidence of its success as we plan for our future outside the EU.”

Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Carl Lis, said:  “I am delighted that the Government has funded an extension and expansion of the Wensleydale payment by results pilot scheme.

“The pilot scheme has been a hit with farmers because it has been designed and delivered locally – and because it puts the farmer back in control of how the land is managed, rather than having to follow very detailed and rigid prescriptions.

“With support from our farm team advisers, and the Natural England Project Manager, the 19 farmers in the scheme have produced some excellent environmental results in a short time.

“They have received payments for making their pastures into good habitat for wading birds, or for restoring and conserving species-rich hay meadows – which are no doubt the jewel in the crown of the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s farmed landscape.

“The better the environmental results, the more they get paid.”