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Getting value for money in agri-environment schemes: recommendations from the UK

Science for Environment Policy - Thematic Issue 57 - June 2017

Many would agree that the efficiency of agri-environment schemes (AES) could be improved, but how? A new study considers how AES could deliver ecosystem services better, using peatlands in the UK as a case study. The researchers suggest a number of approaches to improving the link between the payments given to farmers and the environmental benefits they deliver; these include methods of targeting payments to particular areas.

Agricultural subsidies are an important tool for land management worldwide and can also be a useful instrument for environmental protection. In the EU, agrienvironment schemes (AES) provide payments to farmers who adopt measures that protect the environment. These schemes represent a significant portion of expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy and are an important tool for the delivery of ecosystem services.

There are growing demands for the money invested to be more closely linked to the benefits delivered to society, i.e. payments should be related to ecosystem-service delivery and should only pay for the costs of supplying these services. However, most AES (including those in the EU) are ‘input-based’, which means payments are based on actions or inputs rather than outcomes.

This study considered how AES could be improved in order to increase the ecosystem services provided for the payments administered, using UK peatlands as a case study. Peatlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services and their management in the UK experiences many challenges shared by AES across the EU…

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SOURCE: EC – Science for Environment Policy