Is nature-friendly farming good for business?

There is an ever-growing list of ways in which incorporating nature and considering the environment can benefit farmers and landowners from both an ecological and a financial perspective. Something that may have been previously seen as a nice-to-have, considering biodiversity and habitat improvement on agricultural land, is increasingly becoming an integral part of the process.

The most obvious example of this is the implementation of the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) regime introduced by the Environment Act 2021 and taking effect for most planning applications submitted on or after 12 February 2024. The BNG regime introduces the requirement for developers to achieve a 10% net gain in the biodiversity on site. However, if this 10% net gain cannot be achieved on site, they can purchase off site BNG units or BNG credits. Farmers and landowners can benefit by creating BNG units on their land for biodiversity improvement that can then be sold to developers to make up their BNG requirements.

In addition to the new opportunities created by the BNG regime, there are other financial incentives for farmers and landowners to consider biodiversity as part of their business plans. An example of this is utilising nature-friendly farming, which involves reducing pesticides and providing habitats for natural insect predators. In addition, there is growing interest in adopting natural flood management measures alongside more traditional, man-made measures. Natural flood management includes processes such as the creation of flood plains and reconnecting rivers to them, planting trees near waterways, and allowing riverbanks to rewild to improve their natural defences.

Adopting a more diverse farming system through nature-friendly farming can improve long term resilience to changing weather patterns, including increased flooding, as well as pests and diseases, which in turn will reduce losses that can result from, for example, damage caused to crops. In addition, there is growing consumer demand for food produced in ways that support biodiversity.

In summary, adopting nature-friendly farming measures, including natural flood management, is likely to benefit farmers and landowners financially, in addition to the BNG regime, as well as protecting both agricultural property and the surrounding areas from increasingly extreme weather.  As a result, both BNG and nature-friendly farming can provide farmers and landowners with an opportunity to balance what is good for the environment with what is good for their business.

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