Farmers and land managers across the country received an early Christmas present this month as Natural England announced it paid £98 million into the rural economy ten weeks ahead of target.
The funding has been received by farmers taking part in ‘Classic’ agri-environment schemes*. These schemes currently cover over 950,000 hectares of land across England and, alongside newer Environmental Stewardship schemes, provide funding to support a wide-range of environmentally-friendly farming practices.
Over 96% of claims for funding through Classic schemes received payment by the end of November, ten weeks ahead of the deadline set for Natural England by the European Union.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England said: “This early payment is great news for our natural environment and great news for farmers and land managers who will benefit significantly from this important cashflow boost. Bringing forward these payments is a fantastic achievement not only for those in Natural England who process them, but for the farming industry who have worked with their members and shown real commitment to the positive environmental outcomes these schemes can deliver.”
Classic scheme facts:
- Over 450,000 metres of hedgerow restoration, the distance from Newcastle to Bristol, has been achieved since Classic schemes were first introduced. These hedges are packed full of berries for native birds and visiting winter birds.
- Almost 3,000 agreements have over-winter stubbles which also act as giant bird tables that feed seed eating birds.
- Over 41 million metres of 6m field margins have been paid this year; which is enough to encircle the earth. The margins protect field edges from sprays, providing a home for invertebrates, small mammals and birds.
Managing blanket bog in the Peak District
Over 20,000 hectares of rare blanket bog habitat is being conserved thanks to Environmentally Sensitive Area agreements in the Peak District with farmers and moorland managers. This management aims to conserve the six million tonnes of carbon that is stored within peat deposits included in these agreements. We aim to get peat capturing carbon within these bogs at a rate of 1,500 tonnes per year to increase the amount stored.
Managing grassland for birds in the North Peak
About 2400ha of grassland in the North Peak is being managed for the benefit of lapwings, skylark and curlew - birds which were once common over much of our farmed land, They rely on undisturbed unimproved grasslands and rushy areas, by agreeing to conditions about nutrient inputs and keeping machinery off during spring, farmers help keep the birds in the area.
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