Natural capital is our land, air, water, flora, fauna and minerals and it is these natural assets provided by nature that give us the ability to generate goods and services.

It is the starting point or building blocks for all things that are generated from it, whether they are manufactured such as timber goods and food, social such as recreation, human such as employment or financial.

Ecosystem services is the new buzzword, which is the term for what is generated from natural capital. Broadly, ecosystem services are grouped into provisioning services, such as food and timber production, supporting services (pollination), regulating services (the carbon cycle) and cultural services, which are classed as recreational benefits from nature. With the introduction of the Agriculture Bill to Parliament last week, the shift towards public payment for public goods is here.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, but I already do that – I look after the land and have done so for generations! Well, you now need to get out your ‘environment specs’ and look at your farm with fresh eyes.

You can think on a landscape-wide scale, such as using your land to buffer a rare neighbouring habitat; improving air quality by the targeted planting of trees to capture ammonia, or the use of a ‘Conservation Covenant’. Or on a smaller, but no less important farm scale, through signing up to an environmental agreement. Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will be rolled out nationally in 2021, but the application window is set to open in February for Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship and Water Grants. Plus, the recently launched Woodland Carbon Guarantee offers income from new woodland planting.

If you would like to know more about an Environmental Scheme for your farm, call G Herbert Banks to make an appointment.