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DEFRA Releases Findings from Farming Tests and Trials

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published its sixth evidence report, detailing the outcomes of Tests and Trials conducted between April and October 2022. This initiative is part of a series exploring innovative solutions within the farming sector.

Key Insights:

  1. Thematic Focus: The findings are categorized into six priority themes: Land Management Plans, Spatial Prioritisation, Collaboration, Role of Advice and Guidance, Payments, and Innovative Delivery Mechanisms.
  2. Cross-Thematic Concerns: Several concerns span multiple themes, including the tax implications of altering land use and the challenges of long-term agreements. The consistent emphasis on visual tools like maps for decision-making and the role of local facilitators in fostering collaboration were also highlighted.
  3. Land Management Plan (LMP): Participants employed various tools, from questionnaires to maps, to keep LMPs straightforward and current. While some farmers felt the need for external advice to draft an LMP, others stressed the significance of guidance in identifying public goods on their lands.
  4. Advice and Guidance: Farmers preferred one-on-one advice, with trust being a pivotal factor in adviser selection. While some were willing to pay for advice, there was a consensus that guidance could not replace personalized advice.
  5. Spatial Prioritisation: Using maps was deemed effective in identifying and communicating local priorities. Participants also underscored the importance of local data sets.
  6. Collaboration: Farm clusters emerged as a potent tool for fostering collaboration. The role of facilitators in promoting collaboration and the social benefits of such collaborative efforts were also emphasized.
  7. Payments: A hybrid payment structure encompassing action-based and outcome-based payments found favor among participants. Concerns about the tax implications of the Landscape Recovery scheme were recurrently raised.
  8. Innovative Delivery Mechanisms: Payments by Results (PbR) were seen as potentially more beneficial and fairer than traditional agri-environment schemes. However, the concept of reverse auctions was met with mixed reviews, with some participants fearing it might undermine collaboration.
  9. Future Implications: The report amalgamates significant findings from April to October 2022, offering a comprehensive view of the perspectives of farmers and land managers involved in the Tests and Trials. The insights are further enriched with examples and case studies from completed and ongoing Tests and Trials.

The overarching aim of these Tests and Trials is to furnish evidence to policy teams, thereby informing the design of future schemes with a primary focus on agriculture and farmers.

To read the rest of the DEFRA report, click here.

Photo by Ashley Owen on Unsplash 

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