Landscape conservation – who pays?
Release Date 15 August 2006
Recent research by the Centre for Agricultural Strategy in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading has revealed that farmers in England receive little compensation for the hundreds of millions of pounds they spend each year on the maintenance of landscape features – even though the public benefit greatly from this activity. The research was conducted last year ahead of the introduction of DEFRA's Environmental Stewardship Scheme. The scheme is designed to promote improved environmental management of farmed land, including maintenance and enhancement of landscape quality and character. The agricultural industry has long believed that farmers commonly engage in voluntary landscape management and improvement activities, but this contribution to landscape quality has seldom been measured accurately before. The aim of the University's research was to establish some facts about farmers' landscape management activities before the DEFRA scheme was introduced, so that its success could be measured accurately. Researchers asked farmers across England how many hours they spent working on features that contribute to the quality and character of the landscape. An estimate of the cost of this time was then calculated. The survey found that 90% of farmers spend time on at least one landscape management operation, with the great majority of this effort being uncompensated. For example, 71% of hedge laying activities were uncompensated for and farmers maintaining archaeological sites were never compensated for their labour. 'The European Union has stated its intention to switch aid away from commodity production to providing grants to improve the quality of the environment', said Philip Jones from the Centre for Agricultural Strategy. 'Our survey has confirmed that farmers are funding more than half of their conservation work from the revenues of their farm businesses and are themselves transferring money from their agricultural support payments to landscape management activities.' 'We found that during 2004 -2005, the average farm in England devoted £2,410 worth of labour to uncompensated landscape conservation work. Therefore the results from our survey show that total financial support to farming is important, not just amounts in agri-environment schemes. If such revenues fall, landscape management may decline, even if agri-environment funding is increased'. This report adds to the debate regarding the role of all support to agriculture and how this can help farmers not only continue to produce much of the food we eat, but also maintain a vibrant, aesthetically pleasing and biodiverse countryside. The analysis of this survey data was carried out by a University of Reading team for the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the National Farmers' Union. Publication details: Living landscapes: hidden costs of managing the countryside. P J Jones, R B Tranter & M J Wooldridge. CAS Report 17. Centre for Agricultural Strategy, The University of Reading. 80 Pages. Price £12.50 including postage. To purchase a copy of the report, please contact: Centre for Agricultural Strategy, The University of Reading, P.O. Box 237, Reading, RG6 6AR T: 0118 9318152 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Ends For media enquiries, please contact: Eleanor Holmes Press Officer, University of Reading T: 0118 378 6166 E: email@example.com Notes for Editors 1. Originally established by the Nuffield Foundation in 1975, the Centre for Agricultural Strategy is a self-financing unit within the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at The University of Reading. 2. The National Farmers' Union champions British farming and, through representation and services, supports its members' profitable and sustainable businesses. It represents 60,000 farmers and growers and, as it has no political affiliation, this enables it to negotiate at every level on behalf of its members' interests. 3. The Campaign to Protect Rural England exists to promote the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England by encouraging the sustainable use of land and other natural resources in town and country. Founded in 1926, the CPRE has 60,000 supporters and a branch in every county; Her Majesty The Queen is their patron.