The first major assessment of a “Payment by Results” pilot has shown the project is boosting local wildlife and motivating farmers to develop nature-friendly practices.

Unlike the prescriptive approach of the current national agri-environment schemes – which pay a flat rate for actions taken rather than results achieved – the 34 farmers taking part in the Payment by Results pilot had the freedom to choose how they manage their land to enhance the environment.

The project report shows these farmers have recorded 43 per cent increased score for number and diversity of seed bearing plants than nearby sites under conventional funding schemes – providing a rich food source for farmland birds during the winter months.

The trial areas for species-rich meadows also recorded a greater number of important plant species, such as pignut and eyebright, benefitting bumblebees, butterflies and birds. Participating farmers have also reported they felt more motivated to manage their land in a way that enhances the environment.

The report concludes the result-based approach has “considerable potential” for the design of the future Environmental Land Management scheme – the government’s future vision for farming outside the EU.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said:

“I am greatly encouraged by how well the results-based approach has worked under this pilot. It sends a clear message we should be giving farmers and land managers greater flexibility and autonomy to deliver the best results for the environment that go hand in hand with their farming business.

“For too long our farmers have been subject to the red tape of the Common Agricultural Policy which has impeded innovation and stifled productivity. As we leave the EU we have a fantastic opportunity to create an ambitious new system that rewards farmers for public goods we all value.”

Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said:

“Today’s report shows that if we support our farmers with the right kind of training and guidance then we can achieve really positive results for wildlife. Farmers must be front and centre in efforts to restore the natural environment and these results reveal huge potential for the future."

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