Results-based Agri-Environment Payment Schemes
- A clear link between spending and the biodiversity conservation outputs delivered on the ground exists.
- Increased cost-effectiveness; money is paid for concrete biodiversity results.
- Incentivised maintenance of high-quality biodiversity.
- The clear definition of the ecological objective (i.e. the outcome), based on strong ecological research and up to date baseline data.
- The biodiversity target should be a conservation priority and be dependent on agricultural practices.
- There needs to be a clear, unambiguous link between the ecological objectives and reliable indicators that act as proxy for achieving the ecological objectives, and upon which payments depend.
- The result indicators should not be easily achieved by means other than agricultural management. The indicators should be easily measurable, quantifiable and observable by farmers, and they should not be heavily dependent on factors external to the farm.
- The existence of adequate expert knowledge on ecological requirements to inform best practice and knowledge transfer to farmers and farm advisors.
- An appropriate system for results verification, farm advisory service and dispute resolution needs to be in place.
- Socio-economic factors need to be taken into account, including stakeholders’ attitudes to innovation and risk taking, along with the existence of a culture of trust between the various actors – farmers, farm advisory service, evaluators and government institutions.
- Farmer: who are eager to implement the conservation measures or even monitor outcomes.
- Specialists/Scientists: to develop scorecard, design monitoring and evaluation, and provide best-practice management guidelines.
- Farm advisors: with ecological knowledge to support delivery on the ground.
- Governments: public administration is the actor who can allow this kind of conservations, with specific measures, legislation, or funds but no specific legal intervention.
- NGO: can collaborate with landowners to assess and achieve the conservation goals (optional) or funding the activities.
Rights and obligations
Duration of rights
Purpose and application
Economic transactions and fiscality
Opportunities for landowners
- The relationship between payments and biodiversity achievements is much clearer than for prescription-based payments
- Contracts with farmers simply define the desired results, without the need to detail the farming practices to be applied
- Farmers can use their farming skills, professional judgment and local knowledge instead of just following instructions and are rewarded for achieving the results of their entrepreneurial efforts
- Farmers take ‘ownership’ of biodiversity outcomes, which can lead to greater public recognition of the role of farmers in conserving biodiversity
- The ‘production’ of biodiversity becomes an integral part of the farming system and farm business, not just another set of land management ‘rules’ to be followed
- RBAPS can more easily meet the EU requirements for verification of agri-environment-climate payments
- RBAPS are more easily targeted and budgets carry less ‘deadweight’ because there is a built-in incentive for farmers to select only the land where the biodiversity results are achievable
Opportunities for conservation NGOs
- The “production” of biodiversity becomes an integral part of the agricultural system increasing environmental consciousness of the primary sector
Results-based payment mechanisms are not appropriate when:
- Reliable indicators of biodiversity outcomes and methods that can quantify them on farms cannot be designed
- Lack of environmental knowledge of managing authority to put in place a results-based mechanism
- Lack of human and financial resources to support farmers in implementing and monitoring RBAPs
- The farming community is reluctant to accept results-based strategies
- There is insufficient understanding of the biodiversity requirements or insufficient resources to develop and deliver the measures.
Austria – Results-based nature conservation plan (ENP)
Habitats. Pastures are very important habitats for a variety of insects, small mammals, reptiles and birds. The high structural diversity of extensively grazed areas is both unique and very important. Old junipers and cornelian cherry bushes provide shelter for numerous insects and small mammals.
Species. For example the bird whinchat breeds on the ground in hay meadows and is highly endangered due to the ever earlier mowing. In such areas, the aim of ENP is to prevent mowing in those sections where breeding activities are observed by the farmer.
Landscape elements. As an example, the creation and protection of a habitat for the red-backed shrike was possible with partly cut hedges, single trees and single thorn bushes.
Germany - Coordinated grassland bird protection - Schleswig-Holstein
- Early season: Where early nesting birds (from end March) affect spring grassland management (sub-soiling/aerating, rolling, fertilising using manure)
- Mown grass: If the birds are still present at the first mowing date, the farmer must either delay mowing on the whole parcel or on parts.
- Grazed grass: On grazed parcels, the farmer can choose to either protect each site with a 20m x 20m fence (where possible electrified), or to delay grazing the site until the birds have left.
Ireland – The Pearl Mussel Project
Freshwater pearl mussel lifecycle. Copyright Pearl Mussel Project
The project will include the following elements:
- A result based agri-environmental programme.
- Community outreach. The project team will promote environmental awareness amongst the local communities in each of the project areas. This will be achieved by working with schools and local interest groups.
- Promoting innovative agriculture. The project will support innovative approaches to agriculture that aim to reduce environmental impact or enhance the environment as relevant to the project.
- Develop market opportunities. Explore and help develop new market opportunities for agricultural producers that complement the project’s overall environmental targets.
- Research and development. Support research and development relevant to the aims of the project.
Ireland – The Burren Programme
- to ensure the sustainable agricultural management of high nature value farmland in the Burren;
- to contribute to the positive management of the Burren’s landscape and cultural heritage;
- and to contribute to improvements in water quality and water usage efficiency in the Burren region.
The BP field score, which ranges from 0 to 10, is calculated using ten distinct, weighted criteria which, taken together, give a very accurate picture of the ‘health’ of the grazed habitats in that management unit. The criteria (for ‘winterages’ – very extensive, diverse rough grasslands) are:
- Grazing level;
- Amount of litter (dead vegetation);
- Extent of feed site damage;
- Extent of damage at natural water sources;
- Level of bare soil and erosion;
- Level of encroaching scrub;
- Amount of bracken
- Amount of purple moor grass;
- Extent of weeds and agriculturally-favoured species; and
- Ecological integrity.
- The BP is farmer-led. Farmers nominate and co-fund conservation actions on their own farms and are generally free to manage the land as they see fit (within the law).
- The BP is results-based. Simply put, it rewards those farmers who deliver the highest environmental benefits.
- The BP is flexible and adaptable. Farmers are given the freedom to deliver the required outputs using their own skills, experience and resources, as best fits their own farms and circumstances.
- The BP is local and practical, focusing on works which address real needs in the Burren and which will yield real agricultural and environmental benefits.