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What are results-based agri-environment payment schemes and how do they differ from other approaches?

Results-based agri-environment payment schemes are schemes where farmers and land managers receive payments for delivering a specific environmental result or outcome. These results-based approaches offer farmers the flexibility to use their knowledge and experience to manage the land in a way that benefits both biodiversity alongside their normal farming operations.


What are results-based schemes?

"Results-based" is a term used to refer to agri-environment type schemes where farmers and land managers are paid for delivering an environmental result or outcome, e.g. number of breeding birds, or number of plant species in grasslands, with the flexibility to choose what management is required to achieve the desired result. Of course, all agri-environment schemes are designed to deliver environmental results. However, what distinguishes a 'pure' results-based scheme, is that payments are only made where a result is achieved, making a direct link between the payment and the achievement of defined biodiversity outcomes (or other environmental results) on the ground. Focusing payments on achieving results offers farmers the flexibility to use their knowledge and experience to decide how to manage the land in a way that benefits biodiversity alongside farming operations. In so doing, results-based payment schemes often lead to an enhanced awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and protecting environmental resources as part of the agriculture system.

There are already a number of results-based schemes operating in the EU and beyond. Different approaches to scheme design have been taken in different places. In a few instances 'pure' schemes can be found where payments are wholly dependent on results, with no mandatory management requirements put in place. In some cases, these schemes are stand-alone schemes with separate entry requirements, payment rates and supporting infrastructure. In other situations, the same set of requirements can exist as a package within a broader agri-environment scheme. However, in practice, many schemes have been designed to combine both payments for management actions and payments for results in 'hybrid' schemes. Typically, in these types of schemes, part of the payment is based on the successful delivery of results, but some specified management actions are also required. Sometimes a results-based payment may be offered as a top-up to payments for carrying out specific management actions.

Implementation of schemes

Results-based schemes can be funded in a variety of ways. Existing schemes are funded through public funding such as the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), national or regional funds, as well as private initiatives. They can be implemented through collective approaches, such as in the Netherlands, involve local or native communities, such as the Sami reindeer herders in Sweden, or via individual farmers and land managers. Central to all of these approaches is engaging the knowledge of farmers in managing their land in a way that helps to improve biodiversity delivery as well as other environmental outcomes on the ground alongside their other agricultural activities.

More information on existing schemes and the way they are implemented in the EU can be found in the inventory of scheme examples. If you would like to discuss this article or post comments, please sign up to our Blog.


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