Agriculture fund encourages collaborative thinking

A funding programme worth £1.7 million has been opened to encourage farmers and organisations to work together on large-scale environmental projects.

Open from 1 September until 14 November 2017, the initiative is designed to encourage the industry to look beyond their own land and consider how environmental progress can be achieved in the bigger scheme of things by working together.

The Countryside Facilitation Fund has so far supported 61 groups and 1,350 land managers since it began, helping to improve over 273,000 hectares of land by enhancing wildlife habitats, planting trees and restoring rivers to natural meanders.

“The benefits of action to develop habitats and protect the environment can be magnified if applied on a landscape with groups of farmers working together,” said farming minister George Eustice. “This facilitation fund will support partnership working to maximise the benefits of our Countryside Stewardship schemes to our farmed environment.

“Leaving the EU creates a great opportunity to design a new agriculture policy that delivers environmental outcomes more effectively, and testing partnership working in this way will help provide us with experience to inform future policy.”

To apply to become a part of the programme, groups must submit new plans for working together and sharing knowledge to improve land and benefit communities.

“This scheme is about helping more farmers and land managers make the most of Countryside Stewardship and bring benefits for nature and people on a landscape scale,” commented chief executive of Natural England, James Cross. “This is really exciting, a real win-win for farmers, land managers, rural communities and, of course, our wildlife.

“We are proud to be using the Fund to help support rural communities,” added Cross. “By working with groups of land managers, facilitators can scale up what we can achieve and help deliver long-term outcomes for the environment.”

The Borum Brook Facilitation Fund, which joined the scheme in 2015, has been named as a group that is benefiting from funding. Since it joined the programme, 20 farms covering over 6,500 hectares have worked in conjunction to connect local ancient woodland, improve quality and encourage other farmers to get involved in the environmental work.

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