SIMPLE, voluntary and highly-inclusive is how GWCT Cymru sees future direction for land management schemes in Wales post Brexit.
With the end of the ‘Brexit and our land’ consultation coming up on October 30th, the conservation charity stresses that the land management program in Wales must make rewards for nature, the environment and society.
Although mainly supportive of the direction of the Welsh consultation document, it is concerned that having two support schemes could produce unintended consequences such as placing conservation and food production into silos; creating confusion where overlapping benefits exist.
“We ultimately want delivery of best outcomes for the public and our natural resources and that means farmer-driven choices are needed,” said Sue Evans, GWCT Cymru director.
“We believe that an ‘entry level’ voluntary Foundation Scheme, open to all farmers and land managers where payment is related to the delivery of basic environmental criteria, makes sense.
“There are already statutory requirements in place, including hedgerows or rights of way management, but instead of being a cost to the farm business, could form the basis of the new payments.
“This would retain key environmental goods but provide a basic level of farm support which can then be built on.”
GWCT suggests that this scheme is underpinned by a single, yearly inspection conducted by the farmers’ chosen assurance officer paid for by the farmer with payment triggered after the review.
This is critical in maintaining public confidence that the support provided is delivering real environmental benefits something the Basis Farm Payment did not adequately address.
The next tier proposed by GWCT Cymru to attract more levels of financial support is an Environmental Land Management Scheme, which aims to support the delivery of species, biodiversity and other public goods based on personalised or predetermined packages.
“This scheme would benefit from inclusive and highly-valued elements such as establishing three-meter farm boundaries against neighbouring property,” added Sue.
“This element would also begin wider collaboration with neighbours required to get agreement for farm boundaries and fencing on two separate farm holdings.”
GWCT Cymru believes that the ending of the Common Agricultural Policy provides a unique opportunity to re-invest in one of our important national assets, our soils. Incentivising increases in soil organic matter, conserving nutrients and reducing their losses and improving soil structure and water holding capacity should become part of a national agricultural strategy, for now and for future generations.
Sue continued: “As a charity, we urge the Welsh Government not to prioritise one public good over another and be prepared to consider how it will manage conflicting outcomes such as climate change versus biodiversity. For example, it may be easier to sequester carbon by planting trees on moorlands, but this has a detrimental effect on the habitats and species which are also valued.”
You can read GWCT's full response here
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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