Somerset farmers have successfully bid for £30,000 of funding from the Somerset Rivers Authority, to help offset the cost of implementing land management measures designed to help reduce flooding.
In total, 16 separate farms took part in a unique online reverse auction, submitting 64 bids, covering such things as growing cover crops to counter erosion, planting hedges to slow water run-off and aerating soils to increase absorption.
Of these, 22 bids were successful, with better maize management proving to be the most popular option.
The farmers were able to use an online map to select areas of their land on which they could implement the various natural measures, then bid for the amount of funding they needed to provide that measure.
Successful bidders will now benefit from a total of more than £17,000 for better maize management and £5,500 for planting hedges in the Tone and Parrett catchments.
A further £8,000 is being allocated to “other measures”, designed to increase water storage and reduce flooding.
One of the farmers taking part is Anthony Gothard from Slough Court Farm, Stoke St Gregory, near Taunton. “The website was simple to use and could be a good way for farmers to engage with the environment in the future,” he said.
“The auction has enabled us to focus on better management of our higher-risk maize, to improve our soils and reduce the risk of run-off over winter.”
Sam Passmore of Manor Farm, Otterhampton, near Bridgwater, described the project as a “win-win” for farmers and the river authority, delivering better soil health and reduced risk of environmental damage.
The scheme has been developed by the Environment Agency in partnership with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West and Natural England, through the Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative, with funding provided by Somerset Rivers Authority.
“This trial proved that auctions can deliver great outcomes for the environment at a lower cost,” said Neil Davies, director for future funding at the Environment Agency.
Another auction for natural flood management works in Somerset is now being planned for next year.
Midlands farmers offered pollution control grants
Grants of up to £5,000 each are being offered to farmers in the Severn Trent catchment area, to help farmers in priority areas invest in projects to reduce water pollution.
Known as the Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme, the project is now in its fourth year. So far it has paid out 936 grants worth £4m, with £4.2m match-funding coming from farmers.
The funding is available for things like building pesticide-handling areas, watercourse fencing or planting cover crops.
“Farmers also have the opportunity to propose their own ideas in a unique ‘farmer innovation’ option, which is very popular,” said Severn Trent’s catchment management lead, Jodie Rettino.