Rural payments agency inquiry: a response from the British Ecological Society to the house of commons environment food and rural affairs committee.
This paper presents the response of the British Ecological Society to the House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee focusing on issues that relate to the effective delivery of future Agri-Environment schemes (AES) by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). Agri-environment schemes (AES) such as England's Countryside Stewardship Scheme, are a central component of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and provide financial incentives for the provision of environmental services. Despite some of the progress made as a result of these schemes, many farmland species are still undergoing declines. The UK now has an opportunity to design agri-environmental policies that can be shaped to the ecological needs of the targeted area. Such policies could be underpinned by adopting and adapting the extensive EU legislation and principles related to protecting the environment, as the EU has been the primary source of environmental legislation for the UK for the past 40 years. To improve AES, the RPA will need the resources to build on state-of-the art modelling approaches, already used in some Rural Development Programmes, to enable public money to be targeted towards the most appropriate place and where benefits will be most cost-effectively delivered. The RPA delivery of AES should foster greater cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders to help deliver greater benefits for biodiversity and ecological services.