Suffolk/Essex/UK: ‘Record’ areas of farmland now under wildlife schemes

Natural England: A bumble bee by a crop field

Natural England: A bumble bee by a crop field - Credit: Archant

A RECORD-BREAKING 70% of the country’s available farmland is now covered by Environmental Stewardship schemes, according to latest figures.

Natural England: Environmental Stewardship buffer strip in arable field

Natural England: Environmental Stewardship buffer strip in arable field - Credit: Archant

In Suffolk, 69% of farmland is now in a scheme, following efforts by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment to persuade more farmers to get on board.

Poul Christensen, chair of Natural England

Poul Christensen, chair of Natural England - Credit: Archant

Overall, Natural England’s east of England region AES schemes cover 968,282 hectares (ha), including 1,648 agri-environment schemes covering 204,545ha in Suffolk and 979 agri-environment scheme agreements covering 153,134ha in Essex.

The Utilisable Agricultural Area for the east of England region is 1,427,250ha, which means agri-environment schemes now cover 67.84% of farmland in this region.

“This is a really good result for the region and tantalisingly close to the 70% target figure,” said a Natural England spokesman.

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The geographic area of the region is 1,913,597ha meaning schemes cover 50.6% of the total geographic area.

The latest figures confirm that a record 6.5 million hectares of England’s farmland is now covered by Environmental Stewardship schemes delivering benefits for wildlife and for farm businesses.

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The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs’ Environmental Stewardship scheme is managed by Natural England and supports land management work which conserves wildlife and natural resources and improves public access.

Natural England’s advisers work with around 60,000 customers, including farmers, conservation organisations, smallholders and commons associations, and more than £400million is invested through Environmental Stewardship into the environmental management of England’s farmland each year.

Natural England chair Poul Christensen said: “The fact that well over two thirds of England’s farmland is now being managed with the support of Environmental Stewardship is clear evidence of the commitment that land managers are making to help look after our countryside and wildlife. The farming sector along with the conservation and industry groups in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment partnership have played an important part in helping land managers to reach such a significant target and we can be justifiably proud of this achievement.”

David Barker, chair of the Suffolk committee of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment said: “This seems a very positive story if 70% of England is covered by stewardship schemes. This is good news.”

Jim Egan of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, who Chairs the CFE’s Delivery and Communications Group, said: “The vast majority of farmers and land managers view support for the natural environment as part and parcel of running productive farm businesses and the news that over 70% of England’s farmland is now covered by an agri-environment agreement is a very positive result.”

With over 45,000 Environmental Stewardship agreements now in place [1], Natural England is targeting those projects that offer the most wide-ranging environmental gains, and recent changes have been made to entry Level Scheme options to increase the benefits that ES investment is able to deliver for the environment.

Environmental Stewardship was first introduced in 2005 and since then has gone from strength to strength, reaching out to the majority of England’s farmers and successfully incorporating earlier agri-environment schemes that last year celebrated a Silver Jubilee of helping support environmentally-friendly farming.

For more information about the Environmental Stewardship scheme click on <> . For county-by-county statistics of what ES is delivering locally and case studies about the farmers that are doing it, visit <>

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