Farming for Food Plus ~ Food+ Farming

Projects are now trying to bring the management and appreciation of nature’s services – ecosystem services – to life.  Here is a case study I prepared for a seminar, part of one of these projects.  Please share your views in the comments section, or via twitter to me, @charlescowap

The fictional case study below has been designed to enable us to discuss three key questions in the context of Ecosystem Services (ESS):

  1. What ESS does and could this farm offer?  If you are uncertain about what counts as an ESS, there’s a diagram below which should help.
  2. How can they be measured and managed?
  3. What practical issues does the study illustrate as far as the future development of ESS in a farming context is concerned?

Case Study

Red Earth Farm is a mixed tenure farm of total 500 hectares.  Of this 400 ha is rented under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, and the remainder is owned (but subject to a mortgage with the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation).  The main farmhouse and two workers’ cottages are located on the rented land along with the farm buildings.  The owned land consists exclusively of bare land with no dwellings or buildings.  The land abuts the west bank of the River Severn to the north of Tewkesbury (both the tenanted and owned land).

The landlord has invested nothing in the farm since the present tenant, Ivor Gripe took on the tenancy in 1978.  Ivor himself however in his early years invested heavily in field drainage, water supplies, a new dairy unit for 150 cows and a 1,000 tonne grain store.  Sadly all this is now showing its age.  Ivor has had several warnings about the adequacy of the grain store for the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme, the dairy inspector has issued a list of required works which must be undertaken over the next year and the Environment Agency is concerned that silage effluent, slurry and dairy washings may be getting into the river system (albeit on a relatively small scale).

This will require major investment; the absentee landlord has once again affirmed that he has no intention of helping with any of it and, at the age of 67 years Ivor is pondering the economic sense of further investment on which he will recoup little or no return.  His son and daughter could, in principle, be eligible for succession to the tenancy but given the economic straits experienced by farmers in recent years it looks increasingly likely that they will seek their fortunes elsewhere (Alison is a veterinary surgeon and Andrew a chartered accountant).  Ivor has always reinvested every penny in the farm, which of course is also the family home.

All of the land is registered under the IACS scheme (Integrated Administration and Control Scheme) for SFP (Single Farm Payment) purposes, and Ivor has also entered an Entry Level Stewardship Scheme (ELS).  This mainly covers hedgerow management, ponds, protection of a small archaeological site, grassland management for farmland birds.


The following summary of ESS is taken from the TEEB (The Economics of Ecology and Biodiversity) Synthesis Report published in 2010.  The full report can be seen on the TEEB Website (link here):

TEEB Summary of Ecosystem Services
TEEB Summary of Ecosystem Services


Please do take this opportunity to share your views.  For chartered surveyors and others with a professional CPD obligation, time spent working on this could even count as self-directed CPD – evidenced by your considered opinion in the comments below!


8 thoughts on “Farming for Food Plus ~ Food+ Farming

  1. Charles
    This will be a key issue in future.It raises questions such as….
    which ESS do not lend themselves to a market return and thus need to become supported in some other way; whether in some cases a market can be created and how (e.g.for flood water management); whether in your example Landlord’s permission is required for a tenant either to enter a market ESS scheme( will prob depend on whether actions otherwise in breach of tenancy agreement are involved) or a future CAP based scheme and many others

    1. Thanks David. You’re right about some of the issues in my view – plus quite a few besides eg how to sort out the legalities, the basis of payments and so on. In parts of the USA ‘Conservation Covenants’ are used, covered by state statutes. At least some are made in perpetuity – Dundee University have a team under Prof Colin Reid looking into this now in terms of international comparisons. I have asked a few people from different fields to comment on this piece and hope we can get some more discussion going on it, alongside the work I have been doing with South West Water on the development of some prototype ideas for water management and carbon storage through peatland restoration and management – building on the Mires in the Moors project and others.

  2. At a policy level I think ESS is very exciting. It could mean the end of ‘public’ subsidy and the emergence of privately-funded payments to land owners and managers for services they provide (e.g. developers who are removing hedgerows paying a farmer elsewhere to plant an equivalent amount or water companies paying landowners for ‘reserve’ fields that can be flooded if water levels reach certain highs).

    However, joining it all up and making it happen is going to be the challenge, never mind the legalities involved (monitoring/ enforcement of private contracts).


    1. Thank you Julie. There’s a lot of work going ahead on the policy and research front – including several pilot projects concerned with practical implementation. Several research councils are putting money into this as well as Defra, and it’s reflected in the work of the Treasury’s new Natural Capital Committee. It seems to me it is a question of when not if. As rural professionals of one sort or another it seems to me to be imperative that we start to understand the implications now, recognise the opportunities and scope and equip ourselves to support our clients to deal with what could be exciting and rewarding opportunities. I think this could also offer opportunities to take the lead in the formulation of landscape or catchment scale commercial opportunities.

      My RICS ‘think piece’ outlined a lot of the current opportunities along with the professional challenges which are likely to arise.

      Thanks again Julie – it’s good to see rural professionals starting to look at this area.

  3. Agree with Julie – concept is great. The legal issues, however, could also be great. It would be major jurisprudential step for an English administration to superimpose covenants on private land use like those in US that you refer to. I know it’s been done in other situations, but none, I think, with quite such a broad potential impact.

    What the legal issues are draws the classic legal answer “It depends”. You’ve highlighted SPS/cross compliance. Consequences for Stewardship contract will depend on the options selected.

    Other issues such as landlord & tenant, covenants in the land title, planning, etc. will depend on individual circumstances and will have similar impacts to other, non-ESS type businesses.

    1. Thanks Geoff. I agree that the challenges to English land law look very considerable – particularly in terms of enforcement of covenants with successors in title, registration etc. We have already seen the ‘device’ under the Wildlife and Countryside Act as regarding a Management Agreement as a restrictive covenant where the burden falls on the landowner or occupier to the benefit of Natural England treated as the dominant tenement. Perhaps one contrast with these types of agreement is that, effectively, a land manager could be forced into such an agreement against the alternatives of severe restrictions or (at least theoretically) compulsory purchase. At this stage I think we are looking at ESS commercial arrangements as purely voluntary matters – but there are some important areas in which to develop our professional appreciation and understanding here in my view. Thanks again for your contribution. I hope others will be able to develop this thinking here.

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