Two regions in England were selected: East Anglia and Cumbria, for which farmer groups had been established to explore co-operation for environmental benefits. Cumbria lies in the north-west of England with upland sheep and beef farming being the dominant agricultural land use.
There are two National Parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District National Park covering mountains, lakes and rivers. Some arable cropping (barley and wheat) is supported on lower land near water courses. Farmers own land outright next to their holding on lower land, but the higher ground is considered common usage and neighbouring farmers share grazing rights for a number of sheep (fell rights).
East Anglia conversely is rather flat, with fertile soils in the lowlands and the dominant agricultural land use is for arable farming, therefore farm sizes are larger. Potatoes, vegetables and different cereals are typical crops grown in this region. There is increased pressure upon water resources due to the demands from arable cropping and potential diffuse pollution.
The innovation of farmer collaboration for environmental benefits is to promote joint action across farm boundaries in order to address specific concerns such as flood management along a water course affecting farms at both the upper and lower levels of a river and increasing the overall biodiversity of an area. Acting upon environmental issues, it is widely understood to positively contribute towards farming in a more sustainable way.
Groups were selected that had received funding under the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund (CSFF). The CSFF is an instrument that provides funding for facilitators to develop cooperation amongst a new or existing group of land managers (e.g. farmers, foresters) and agree the agri-environmental management priorities that they plan to take forward across their holdings (www.gov.uk/countrysidestewardship ).
In total, 32 farmer interviews were conducted, of which 28 were adopters and 4 were non-adopters (Cumbria). In each region, 3 groups were included in the study and in Cumbria, a rivers trust and national park authority were responsible for facilitating groups, and in East Anglia, a farm conservation NGO was the main facilitating body.
Full report is available here.