Using agricultural land as a flood defence - An ecosystem service that farmers should be paid for - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

Beth Metson Blog

January 31, 2014

Using agricultural land as a flood defence – An ecosystem service that farmers should be paid for

The Single Farm Payment has been recently under scrutiny from governing bodies establishing its value to those who are paying for it, the taxpayer.   Today (29th January) the BBC ran an article stating farmers should be urged and even obliged to control flooding by capturing and holding water, and this as part of the public grant farmers receive.  It was quoted that the average family pays £400/year in grants to farmers and for this they should be able to expect farmers to flood agricultural food producing land to save areas downstream.

Cross compliance has been the vehicle to demonstrate SFP value in recent years.  This underpins the payment and farmers are inspected on their farm management to ensure the specified measures are adhered to and where they are not some are penalised.  Cross compliance has been deemed unsatisfactory which has led to an array of ideas in the CAP Reform to demonstrate and add value to the payment farmers get from the taxpayer.

Should taxpayers pay for identified services that farmers and growers can provide to society from ecosystems?  Should ecosystem services make up the basis of Cross Compliance?  Not only provision of food, but also flood protection and clean water are two obvious services some farmers could claim to provide already.  Should water bills include a farming levy so that the consumer and taxpayer directly pays the farmer for an element of the supply chain to provide clean water?  Taking this as an example, practical examples of how these public services could be achieved and provided include; improving pesticide filling and handling areas, adhering to LERAPs, building good soil health that will provide adequate water filtration.  This would have the added benefit of having clear objectives that the industry are aiming for.  How to achieve these could be partly prescribed and partly up to land managers how to best achieve, clean water provision for example, depending on individual circumstances on that farm and their practices.

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