EXTENDED funding has been allocated for a pilot scheme to help farmers achieve environmental benefits tailored to their local areas.

The ‘payment by results’ initiative, which includes a trial in Wensleydale, will be funded for a further two years, Defra has confirmed.

The agency said it will provide £540,000 to be shared between participating farmers. It is the first agri-environment scheme directly funded by the UK.

The extension, which will also fund schemes in Suffolk and Norfolk, was welcomed by the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA).

The organisation’s northern director Dorothy Fairburn said: “We welcome the extension of this pilot scheme in Wensleydale which is less process driven, and more focused on outcomes. “Early indications are that these schemes are more flexible than the current farming support system which is overly bureaucratic and inflexible to accommodate local or national circumstances. For instance, following the recent spell of dry weather, greater discretion on when to cut hay meadows would have been helpful, rather than having to go through a lengthy derogation process.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the trial successfully delivering environmental outcomes which benefit the local area.”

The trial fits in with the Government’s desire to focus payments on providing ‘public goods such as creating wildlife habitat, protecting cherished landscapes, reducing flooding and improving air quality.

CLA chief land use policy officer Susan Twining said: “We welcome the extension of the pilot scheme and the extra funding to evaluate how best to achieve environmental outcomes.

“The CLA called for this type of trial to test how and when outcome based approaches might work for both the farmer and the environment.”

“The CLA looked at how to make these trials work in our Land Management Contract which sets out how a post-Brexit public goods scheme should work for farming and rural businesses as well as delivering for the environment and society. We proposed that land managers should have the choice to deliver outcomes for certain activities and that they are supported with expert advice and training to improve their knowledge of environmental land management.”