New analysis identifies potential multi-million pound market for green farming post-Brexit

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Farmers could benefit from a new scheme to direct millions of pounds towards farming methods that reduce flooding, provide clean water and restore wildlife, according to a new report from Green Alliance and the National Trust published today[1].

Green Alliance and the National Trust have proposed a new model for green farming, which it is hoped will create new markets for sustainable land management. Under the scheme groups of farmers working together would sell flood protection and clean water to water companies and public authorities downstream[2].
Called Natural Infrastructure Schemes, the new model could see savings for organisations currently facing high costs from poor water quality and flooding[3].
Green Alliance calculates the cost of river flooding and water contamination to water companies, local authorities, public agencies and infrastructure operators at just under £2.4 billion a year. Contracting to avoid just a quarter of these costs could release as much as £120 million for each of England’s 100 catchments over a 20-year catchment scale scheme[4].
Sue Armstrong-Brown, policy director at Green Alliance, said: “The old CAP subsidy-and-grant approach is inadequate to deal with the pressures on land and the realities of farm economics. The potential market for environmentally-beneficial farming could be worth millions – far more than the £400million available to farmers through government agri-environment schemes. We need to make farming part of the way the environment is returned to health, and that means making good environmental management pay.”
Green Alliance and the National Trust will be working alongside leading landowners and businesses over the next 12 months, preparing to introduce pilot Natural Infrastructure Schemes in the UK.
Today’s report follows the National Trust’s call in August that restoring the natural environment should be at the centre of any replacement to the Common Agricultural Policy[5]. The conservation charity believes a focus on protecting and enhancing the ‘natural assets’ on which food production depends will open farming to new environmental markets that make it profitable and rewarding to manage land sustainably.
Patrick Begg, rural enterprises director at National Trust, said:
“Farmers should be paid fairly for producing great food in a way that supports the long term health of our farmland. The Natural Infrastructure scheme is about creating a market for services from farming that today go unrewarded - reducing flood risks, improving water quality and creating homes for wildlife, while at the same time opening up new revenue opportunities for farmers.”
Welcoming the report, Christopher Price, director of policy at CLA, said:
“Every day, alongside agricultural production farmers and landowners deliver valuable environmental services such as reducing flood risk and helping tackle climate change. If we can connect, via markets and incentives, those who benefit with the land managers who do the work then there is a real opportunity to grow this type of work and to amplify the benefits it delivers. We welcome this useful contribution to the important natural capital discussion and we look forward to working with Green Alliance, the National Trust and other groups to explore opportunities for further investment in environmental services.”
Angela Francis, senior economist at Green Alliance, said:
“In many places natural filtration and flood risk management are already cheaper than hard engineering. Once you have a good that can be supplied for a price that a buyer wants to pay, you have a market. Natural Infrastructure Schemes put these factors together and provide an opportunity for us to start restoring nature now.”
The Natural Infrastructure Scheme could benefit upland farmers who are struggling to make ends meet.
Chris Clark, who farms at Nethergill Farm in the Yorkshire Dales, said:
“As we prepare to leave the CAP, diversifying how we make money from our land makes good business sense. Setting up marketing groups for our green services would offer a great deal for farmers and for our customers.  The appetite exists for doing things differently, if we can make it pay.”
The report will be launched this morning at the Royal Society in central London. Representatives from business, local government and the third sector will debate how natural markets can benefit businesses and the environment[6].
Speaking at the event will be David Elliott, group strategy and new markets director at Wessex Water.
Ahead of the event, David Elliott said: “Water companies understand the value of resilient catchments for our business and our customers. We are already exploring long-term partnerships with our upstream farmers. Building markets for natural infrastructure would be a significant step towards bringing these approaches into the mainstream.”
Angela Francis, senior economist, Green Alliance (available for interview) 020 7630 4526
To attend the 28 September event at the Royal Society, please contact Elena Perez, events manager, Green Alliance 020 7630 4520
[1] The report, New markets for land and nature:  How Natural Infrastructure Schemes could pay for a better environment, is published today by Green Alliance.
[2] The Natural Infrastructure Scheme (NIS) is an area-based market in avoided costs, delivering environmental improvements by bringing together groups of land managers to sell ecosystem services to groups of beneficiaries.  It has the following features:
  • It is farmer-led: Farmers and land managers are put at the forefront of developing and designing the scheme, which opens up a wider potential for delivering ecosystem services alongside other income streams.
  • Payments incentivise change: Long term and significant scale contracts move ecosystem services from a peripheral activity to something that could fundamentally change land managers’ approach to farming.
  • It is designed for catchment scale delivery: Co-ordinated land manager intervention enables the NIS to deliver a solution that reduces costs downstream for organisations facing increasing flood and water pollution problems.
  • It sells a service based on results: Contracts are specified around solution delivery, within defined limits, that land managers, who own the assets, are responsible for delivering.
[3] There is already substantial evidence to suggest that certain land management practices and catchment management can reduce flood risk and water contamination. Catchment partnerships were established in 2006 to take a catchment wide perspective of water management.  Defra PES pilots were launched in 2011 to test the extent to which specific ecosystem services can deliver environmental benefits and who might pay for them.
Research also demonstrates that natural pest management, pollination, nitrogen capture, and precision technologies, make it possible to reduce chemical inputs, lower costs and maintain yields.
[4] Contracting to avoiding just a quarter of these costs would release up to £575 million a year. The market in avoided costs would release around £6 million a year for each of the 100 catchments in England, enough to support a 20 year £120 million investment in upstream catchment management. Source: New markets for land and nature:  How Natural Infrastructure Schemes could pay for a better environment.
[5] In a speech in August at Countryfile Live, National Trust Director-General, Dame Helen Ghosh, called for a farming subsidy system that rewards farmers for managing land in a way that delivers a range of public benefits, securing the long term health and productivity of the land on which our farming depends. For more:
[6] The event takes place at the Royal Society, Wednesday 28 September, 10:30-12.00. Debate will cover the topic: ‘Can natural markets benefit business and the environment?’ Our speakers are: Patrick Begg (National Trust), David Elliott (Wessex Water), Chris Uttley (Stroud District Council), Steven Smith (AECOM) and Angela Francis (Green Alliance).
To attend the 28 September event at the Royal Society, please contact Elena Perez, events manager, Green Alliance: or 020 7630 4520
About Green Alliance
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Founded in 1979 "to inject an environmental perspective into the political life of Britain” we have been inspiring and influencing change for over 35 years.
About the National Trust
The National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 775 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information and ideas for great value family days out go to: