Perceptions of farmers in Lancashire on the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme

Middleton, R (2009) Perceptions of farmers in Lancashire on the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme. [Dissertation]

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English farmers are compensated under Environmental Stewardship (ES) schemes to
alter their land management and farming practices, enabling them to deliver an
extensive range of government policies in respect of the environment, natural resources,
biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Since the introduction of the Entry Level (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)
schemes, the number of farmers on ES schemes has rapidly risen. The success in
recruiting farmers to ES brings about the challenge of establishing how to get those who
have joined these schemes to commit to conservation on a more permanent basis.
Using questionnaires and informal interviews with farmers on the Higher Level
Stewardship scheme, this study explores the possibility that, whilst financial
remuneration and an interest in conservation may initially motivate farmers to join
Environmental Stewardship schemes, one of the key incentives for a commitment to
permanent environmentally-friendly land management may lie in a “feel good factor”,
generated by a) the results of their own actions and b) the support and encouragement
provided by external individuals, organisations and the wider community.
This study found that farmers do feel positive about the results of their own actions and
they are motivated to “keep up the good work”, learn more about conservation and even
share the results of their work with others. With regard to support and encouragement
offered by external bodies, the study found that few farmers are regularly in touch with
external organisations and this could be perceived as a weak link in the
environmental/conservation chain.
This study concludes that, whilst positive feedback can make a significant difference to
farmers’ commitment to long-term conservation there is a risk that leaving them to get
on with a conservation scheme that lasts for ten years, with very little communication,
acknowledgement of achievements or encouragement, will leave them feeling as
detached from conservationists, policy makers and the wider public as ever. The HLS
provides a real opportunity to not only bridge the gap, but to secure the long-term
benefits of caring for the countryside in a way that is ultimately beneficial for all.

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