How will the UK manage its rural spaces post-Brexit?

30 May 2017


Reported by Paul Henry BBSRC-funded CSaP Policy Intern (April - June 2017)

A British Ecosystems Services Approach to replace the Common Agricultural Policy after Brexit

What might a policy to pay farmers for the delivery of ecosystem services look like? After Brexit, funding for agriculture will have tougher competition. It will become increasingly critical to demonstrate that government funds paid to land holders generate clear social value in order to compete with demands for funding for health, education and social services.

The objective of a British Ecosystem Services Policy would be to deliver the greatest total value of ecosystem services from the land, taking account of both marketed and non-marketed outputs.

CSaP’s Policy Workshop, chaired by Dame Helen Ghosh, brought together policy professionals from government with representatives from farming associations and industries, academic experts and other relevant stakeholders to discuss this important issue.

Download the workshop report here

Ian Hodge, Professor of Rural Economy at the University of Cambridge laid out his vision for a new British Ecosystems Services policy which encompassed all aspects of land management for rural areas. Rather than just paying for food production, like the EU Common Agricultural Policy, he suggested paying for any use of land which promoted social value, and that ecosystems services funds could be administered at both the national and local levels to reflect the differing priorities at both levels of governance.

Building on Professor’s Hodges proposal, the discussion focused on the future of the agricultural industry and how innovative policy would benefit various rural sectors. There was concern that broadening the role of farmers to become land managers could have serious practical and sociological implications.

Those working in the agricultural sector would require a clear, easily accessible policy which would link their actions to national outcomes. Farmers would need the support of new local and national level institutions through shared knowledge on ecosystems services delivery, as well as support to monitor outcomes.

The development of new agencies and funds which facilitate the management of British ecosystems seemed like a sensible and elegant solution. However, work still needed to be done to ready rural communities for a change in identity. There was a significant risk of further disenfranchising and alienating the agricultural community by changing their role and adding further complexity to their industry, therefore any new policy development should have the farming community at its heart.

The potential scope of a policy which touched on everything from food security to biodiversity and water management received an enthusiastic response from the workshop participants. There was considerable talk about how to encourage essential public debate on the future of UK ecosystems and rural land.

This culminated in several participants agreeing to begin highlighting the management of rural land as a serious risk or opportunity to their business and political networks.

This topic was further discussed at our annual conference on 29 June 2017 at the Royal Society.

Banner Image courtesy of B Gilmour on Flickr

Professor Ian Hodge

Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge