Natural England - Agri-Environment Schemes in England report

Agri-Environment Schemes in England report

The most comprehensive analysis of agri-environment schemes (AES) yet undertaken has been published by Natural England. The report draws on research from the entire 22-year history of the schemes and highlights how they have brought together farmers and conservationists to fulfil the twin goals of caring for the natural environment and securing sustainable food production.

Summary: Farming with nature: Agri-environment schemes in actionexternal link

Full report: Agri-Environment Schemes in England 2009external link

Report highlights

Some of our most sensitive and best-loved landscapes have enjoyed the protection provided by agri-environment schemes and this Report celebrates the many successes of the schemes to date including:

  • c. £400 million each year is paid to England’s farmers and land managers through the schemes.
  • Over 58,000 agri-environment schemes covering 66% of agricultural land in England – this is approaching the 70% target agreed between Natural England and Defra.
  • Declining habitats are being protected and restored – 41 per cent of hedgerows are now managed through the schemes.
  • Some threatened farmland birds are making a comeback – cirl buntings pairs increased by 130 per cent from 1992-2003.
  • More than 6,000 archaeological features on farmland are protected under the schemes, including more than half of all scheduled monuments and registered battlefields.
  • More than 170,000 people made educational visits to farms through AES in 2008 and 99% said they enjoyed the visit.
  • Sustaining up to 15,000 jobs and generating additional spending of as much as £850million per year.

Challenges for the future

Farmers clearly recognise that care for the natural environment is a vital part of a sustainable farming system. They have shaped the natural environment in the past and their role in ensuring its health in the future cannot be underestimated.

Agri-environment schemes have transformed the way we look after our land and wildlife without compromising farmers’ ability to produce food. However, the gains of the last two decades can only be safeguarded with the continued support of the farming industry, and securing new funding for this vital work. The current funding programme for AES is due to end in 2013.

The industry must be viable both economically and environmentally. Farmers and conservationists must continue to strengthen their partnership and view sustainable agriculture not just on a local scale but from a wider, landscape perspective. These vital partnerships will help to ensure that the traditional, much loved character of the countryside is maintained and that our rich natural heritage is conserved.