JANUARY SALE Subscribe for just £5 today CLICK HERE

Paying for the environment

PUBLISHED: 10:20 30 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 20 February 2013

Paying for the environment

Paying for the environment

Why payments to farmers for environmental stewardship are a vital mechanism for conservation, from which all of us who appreciate the Kentish countryside benefit

Words by Judith Norris

Many of the traditional farming activities that lend themselves to the creation of traditional landscapes, such as grazing, are no longer economically viable. But the idea of subsidising farming is not universally popular.

Those emotive images of wine lakes and butter mountains were enough to put us off the idea of paying farmers to cultivate crops for the sake of it. No one in the UK is subsidised on the basis of food production tonnage any longer, but associations linger, and any mention of farmers receiving payments from the public purse can provoke resentment.

The truth is that farmers in Kent and throughout the UK are constantly seeking diversification strategies to keep their businesses in the black. But they also have to balance economic viability with the interests of the environment.

When you hear of farmers receiving public money today, it is probably for environmental stewardship. There are two levels for which farmers can apply: Entry Level and Higher Level.

There are large areas of Kent where farmers are eligible to apply for the more demanding Higher Level Stewardship, because they feature environments and historic buildings that require the care and nurture only farmers and land managers are in a position to deliver. Such areas include the East Kent Downs, North Downs and North Kent/Thames Estury.

The North Kent Plain is eligible for HLS, as an area where many farmland bird species have suffered major declines over the last 25 years. One of the main factors is large-scale bird habitat change driven by policies that demanded agricultural intensification. The environmental stewardship scheme offers the chance for more land to be managed positively for wildlife.

The North Kent plain is one of the best areas in the south east for grey partridges, turtle doves, corn buntings and lapwings. The HLS scheme offers an opportunity to increase the range of these species using carefully targeted options including beetle banks, fallow plots and grass field margins.

Shouldnt farmers be taking such conservation measures anyway? The difficulty lies in that while you and I will pay for milk and bread, we cant be charged for a pretty view or the presence of a corn bunting.

Where grazing is a loss-making activity, but vital to the preservation of specific habitats, who then is to pay? The market will no more pay for the environment than it will a playground.

This is where payments for environmental stewardship are vital for conservation; this is no gravy train for farmers, who are paid around one third of what it costs them to produce the environmental benefits for which they are responsible. Fortunately for us, those who have taken the step into HLS are driven by more than money.

So before we condemn handouts, lets reflect the cost to our environment if we just assume somebody will look after it, with no financial support to do the job. The road to the hell of a neglected environment is paved with good intentions. If we care for our environment, we should back HLS and those prepared to take it on.




Judith Norris is chair

of the Kent branch of the Country Land

and Business Association (CLA). The CLA has been looking after the interests of its members, as well as promoting the positive aspects of land ownership and land management, for the past 100 years. For further information and all supporting web links, please visit kent.greatbritishlife.co.uk.



Judith Norris is chairof the Kent branch of the Country Landand Business Association (CLA). The CLA has been looking after the interests of its members, as well as promoting the positive aspects of land ownership and land management, for the past 100 years. For further information and all supporting web links, please visit kent.greatbritishlife.co.uk.

More from Out & About

Friday, January 24, 2020

The season of romance is in the air and with fairytale castles, literary tales and iconic White Cliffs, where better to pop the question than in the Garden of England? Here are 10 of Kent's perfect places to propose

Read more

When funds are low and the family is going stir-crazy stuck indoors, here is some fun, free stuff to get you through

Read more
Monday, January 20, 2020

The beautiful Hever Castle will launch snowdrop season with a talk followed by a woodland walk

Read more

Regularly voted one of Kent's best places to live, and with easy access to London, let's celebrate Sevenoaks

Read more
Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The elusive snowdrop can be hard to find and before you know it, they're gone again, so we saved you the trouble and found some beautiful spots in Kent to go for a walk among the snowdrops

Read more

Want to get fitter, feed your brain or start a new hobby? The National Trust can help kickstart your 2020 plans

Read more

The run-up to Christmas can be stressful, so escape for a while by spending time reconnecting with nature

Read more
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Farmer Sandra Fagg adores Christmas and now she and husband Mike run their own reindeer centre and grotto

Read more
Friday, December 6, 2019

Counteract all that festive over-indulgence with a winter walk through National Trust-owned Kentish countryside

Read more
Friday, December 6, 2019

The swashbuckling panto opens this month to Dartford's Orchard Theatre and is sure to keep the whole family laughing

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life