The farmers are urging the government to include the establishment of hedgerows in its nature-friendly farming grant scheme in a bid to increase biodiversity.
Details on the post-Brexit replacement of the EU’s common agricultural policy have been scarce, with land managers simply saying they would receive payments for providing “public goods” such as nature protection.
More than 1,100 farmers interviewed by Farmers Weekly, on behalf of CPRE, the rural charity, revealed that lack of funding was by far the biggest obstacle to planting and maintaining hedgerows.
Wildlife and nature corridors are considered the biggest benefit of hedgerows by nearly nine in 10 farmers. Other perceived benefits include providing shelter or shade for crops or livestock and home for pollinators and pest predators.
Around 70% of farmers said they would plant more hedgerows if the government gave them the right incentives, while 82% supported the idea of government-funded nature-friendly agriculture focusing on hedgerows to increase their quality and abundance.
CPRE calls on the government to adopt a target of 40% more hedgerows by 2050 to increase nature in the countryside, and to use the new payments system, the Land Management Environmental Scheme (MEP), to encourage farmers to plant them.
Tom Fyans, CPRE’s acting chief executive, said: “Farmers couldn’t have been clearer about the value they place on hedgerows – they really care about supporting wildlife and nature on their land. The government needs to tap into their enthusiasm by using ELMs to provide simple, accessible programs that help farmers take care of their hedgerows for the benefit of all.
A report on hedgerows, written by the charity and released on Tuesday, suggests farmers could be encouraged to work together to create mosaics of hedgerows spanning multiple farms, providing valuable wildlife corridors. It revealed that 94% of farmers found barriers to planting hedges, such as the time and money needed, while 59% had created one in the past 10 years and intended to do so. more over the next five years.
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, a farmer on the Devon-Cornwall border, said: ‘Hedges were historically planted as a barrier or to mark a boundary between plots of land or neighboring properties, but they are so much more.
“Managed with sensitivity, they are multifunctional and, for me, add to the beauty of the countryside. We all need to find ways to protect nature and the environment from the effects of climate change, and if increasing the extent of hedgerows in the UK by 40% by 2050 can be part of that change, this certainly has my vote and support.
Agriculture has always been a major driver of biodiversity loss, with rivers polluted with slurry, forests cut down to graze livestock and produce animal feed, and hills stripped of their flora by the sheep.
Landowners told Environment Secretary Therese Coffey last week that they were ‘running out of patience’ due to funding scheme delays, with details of what farmers could do to boost their incomes taking years to emerge.
Ministers said more information on the programs would be announced in the new year.
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