Policy into practice: the development and delivery of agri-environment schemes and supporting advice in England


*Corresponding author. Email: david.smallshire@defra.gsi.gov.uk


There has been significant progress in recent years in translating the knowledge gained from farmland bird research into mechanisms which deliver sympathetic farm management. This progress is described for England, focusing on the development, targeting and delivery of agri-environment schemes and supporting advisory materials and services. Following the successful implementation and evaluation of the Arable Stewardship Pilot Scheme, modified arable land management options were introduced into the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2002, targeted at scarce farmland birds and other threatened farmland wildlife. An enhanced suite of options will be introduced in 2005 in a new scheme, Environmental Stewardship, encompassing both simple ‘Entry Level’ and more demanding ‘Higher Level’ options. The former were piloted successfully in 2003, while the latter will replace existing schemes and focus more on defined environmental outcomes. The valuable synergies and contributions of partnerships in developing, targeting and evaluating schemes is acknowledged. Recognizing the targeting value of recent distribution data for declining farmland bird species, a project is underway to collate recent records and to make interpreted data accessible to farmers and their advisers. Appropriate advisory materials and demonstration sites have been used to engage and motivate farmers, by providing feedback, a sense of pride and better public appreciation. Examples of best practice in knowledge transfer are given: individually tailored advice and the use of suitable demonstration farms are very powerful mechanisms for achieving environmental results, but are costly. The policy and advisory infrastructure currently in place, across and between government and the voluntary sector, provides an unprecedented basis for an optimistic outlook for farmland birds.