The 12th Agriculture and the Environment Conference (organised by SRUC, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Forest Research, SEFARI, SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage and The James Hutton Institute), took place in Edinburgh on 28 and 29 November 2018. It was opened by Francesca Osowska, Chief Executive of Nature Scot.

The conference sought to help inform and shape the debate about how best to reward farmers, foresters and other land managers for delivering public goods from their land management practices. It provided a forum to help develop thinking of practical implementation on the ground and what that meant for policy development.

Conference Background

There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge before the scale and shape of future public funding to land managers becomes clearer. But with Brexit rapidly approaching – and with each new model of theoretical scenarios suggesting that major changes to current support levels are inevitable – then one major topic of debate revolves around the suggestion that future support for land management should only be targeted at the provision of public goods.

However, it is important to remember that most – if not all – of the questions being asked about how best to use public funding to obtain public goods have been around for a long time.

What Brexit has done is to bring those questions more to the forefront of a much greater number of people’s minds. In particular, it is now being recognised that any funding that goes to land managers in the future is going to have to be argued for – and justified – against other calls on public funding such as health and education.

In order to make such arguments it will be important that the public goods being delivered can be assessed in a cost-effective and transparent way. That then begs a number of questions:

What type of environmental public goods should be rewarded in the future? Many public goods can be listed as potentially arising from any one management unit but not all can be assigned down to an individual management unit, as opposed to wider catchment, level.

What impact will the targeting of those public goods have on future land use? Prioritising public goods delivery will only be effective if land managers are willing to deliver those goods. Ensuring this requires greater knowledge about what motivates land managers to change management practices, e.g. why do they implement certain measures and not others?

What range of mechanism are available for rewarding land managers for the provision of public goods? Paying for most public goods will require decisions to be made about how robust an assessment mechanism is acceptable. Most will involve some level of estimate of the degree of delivery at the management unit level, raising the question as to what level of variation in those estimates are acceptable to base payments upon?

Although Brexit is a huge challenge it is also a huge opportunity to develop something different with regard to the effective delivery of environmental public goods in the future.

This conference tried to help inform and shape the debate about how best to reward farmers, foresters and other land managers for delivering public goods from their land management practices. In particular it provided a forum to help develop thinking of practical implementation on the ground and what that means for policy development.

Theme 1

What type of environmental public goods should be prioritised for delivery by land managers in the future?

Keynote 1: Delivering environmental public goods: reflections on experience and prospects
Delivered by David Baldock, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)
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Keynote 2: Brexit and our land: meeting the challenge
Delivered by Jon Westlake, Welsh Government
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Giving people the public goods they demand
Delivered by Anna Brand, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
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Assessing public goods from woodlands: can we see more than wood from the trees?
Delivered by Darren Moseley, Forest Research
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Introducing trees to agricultural landscapes - economic and ecological benefits: a look at some recent action from the UK and France
Delivered by Kate Holl, Scottish Natural Heritage
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Farm nitrogen management for a circular economy and cleaner environment
Delivered by Bill Bealey, Centre for Ecology & Hyrdology (CEH)
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Theme 2

How can land managers be encouraged and helped to deliver those public goods effectively?

Ministerial address
Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

Keynote 1: Putting theory in to practice: supporting change, monitoring impacts and delivering rewards for public goods
Delivered by Caroline Drummond, Linking Environment & Farming (LEAF)
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Keynote 2: Actions and prescriptions or outcomes and engagement? Experience from agri-environment schemes in England
Delivered by Steve Chaplin, Natural England
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The design and application of the public goods tool: an evaluation framework for the development of sustainable farming systems
Delivered by Laurence Smith, The Organic Research Centre (ORC)
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The business of sustainability - blending profitable farming with valued species and habitats
Delivered by Ross MacLeod, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)
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How can we enhance the role of local land and water users in delivering catchment scale water ecosystem services? Lessons from PESLES, a lowland case study in eastern Scotland
Delivered by Andy Vinten, James Hutton Institute (JHI)
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Applying the Natural Capital Protocol to support land managers to deliver public goods
Delivered by Andrew Wells, The Crown Estates Scotland
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Theme 3

What mechanisms are available for rewarding land managers for the provision of public goods?

Keynote 1: Bridging the investment gap for payment for ecosystem services in Costa Rica
Delivered by Róger Madrigal, The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE)
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Keynote 2: Incentives, imagination and inertia in rewarding land management for public goods
Delivered by Andrew Moxey, Pareto Consulting
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Is policy integration the answer to effective delivery of public goods? Insights from a review of Scottish Policy Instruments
Delivered by Kirsty Blackstock, James Hutton Institute (JHI)
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Payments for the provision of carbon sequestration and other public goods by the private sector via the UK's Woodland Carbon Code
Delivered by Vicky West, Forestry Commission
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Peatland ACTION and the peaty pound: delivering environmental rewards
Delivered by Andrew McBride, Peatland ACTION Programme
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The Hen Harrier Programme: the implementation of a results-based agri-environment scheme
Delivered by Caroline Sullivan, The Hen Harrier Project
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Addressing the governance gaps in rural land policy
Delivered by Ian Hodge, University of Cambridge
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Conference interviews

The following short interviews provide thoughts on the conference content obtained from a range of speakers and attendees.

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Hill & mountain research

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Research at SRUC

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