Agri-environment schemes now cover a record 70% of available farmland in England, Natural England has revealed.

About 6.5m hectares of farmland in England is covered by environmental stewardship schemes, delivering benefits for wildlife and funding for farm businesses, the government agency said.

Poul Christensen, chair of Natural England, said: “The fact that well over two-thirds of England’s farmland is now being managed with the support of environmental stewardship is clear evidence of the commitment land managers are making to help look after our countryside and wildlife.

“The farming sector along with the conservation and industry groups in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) partnership have played an important part in helping land managers to reach such a significant target and we can be justifiably proud of this achievement.”

Jim Egan, of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, who chairs the CFE’s delivery and communications group, said: “The vast majority of farmers and land managers view support for the natural environment as part and parcel of running productive farm businesses and the news that more than 70% of England’s farmland is now covered by an agri-environment agreement is a very positive result.”

More than 45,000 environmental stewardship agreements are now in place and more than £400m is invested to farmers and land managers into the environmental management of England’s farmland each year.

Agri-environment schemes have existed in the UK for more than 25 years with the aim of helping farmers to support the environment alongside the vital role of food production.

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