A survey by countryside charity CPRE of 1,100 farmers has found that a the majority of farmers would support a target to expand the UK’s hedgerow network.
The vast majority of farmers responding also want the government to properly fund the target, which is 40% more hedgerows by 2050, as recommended by the Climate Change Committee. The biggest block to hedgerow expansion and maintenance at the moment is a lack of funding.
The benefits of more hedgerows are well documented and clearly understood: wildlife and nature corridors are seen as the greatest benefit of hedgerows by almost nine in ten farmers, according to the survey.
Other benefits include providing shelter or shade for crops or livestock, providing a home for pollinators and pest predators – and more than half of farmers simply recognising that hedgerows enhance the beauty of the countryside.
Key findings include that the vast majority (86%) of farmers say that hedgerows are important to them and their business. Overall, six in ten have planted some hedgerows in the past ten years.
The popularity of hedgerows among farmers suggests they could become a torchbearer of the government’s new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs).
Most farms across the country have some hedgerows, making them an ideal entry point to the new land management schemes if the government delivers practical funding options that complement current farming practices.
Private finance, possibly in the form of carbon credits, may also prove a significant opportunity for future hedgerow funding.
A small majority of farmers said they currently received some form of government support for hedgerow planting, often from Countryside Stewardship funding. However, over a quarter had access to private funding.
Among private funding ideas to be explored are hedgerow carbon credits, or from water companies wanting to improve water quality. Funds from these or other schemes could help support farmers to deliver a major hedgerow planting programme.