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Case study of agri-environmental payments: The United Kingdom


  • Dobbs, Thomas L.
  • Pretty, Jules


The Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) program, when launched in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1986, was the first agri-environmental program in the European Union (EU). This program grew to a total of 43 designated ESA schemes in the UK as a whole, 22 of which were in England. A variety of agri-environmental payments programs were created to supplement and complement the ESA schemes in years to follow. The most prominent of these in England was the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), established in 1991. The CSS was available to farmers outside the ESAs, and like the ESA program, was intended to protect valued landscapes and habitats and to improve public enjoyment of the countryside. By 2003, over 10% of England's agricultural land was enrolled in either ESA or CSS agreements. These voluntary agreements were long-term contracts (usually for 10Â years) between the government and farmers to provide environmental services. Several major evaluations of the ESA program and the CSS were conducted over the years, and the results of many of those evaluations and the lessons derived are synthesized and summarized in this article. Both the ESA program and the CSS proved to be generally effective in enrolling many farmers in the entry-level contract tiers, thereby halting or slowing degradation of rural landscape and other environmental features. However, the schemes did not generally offer sufficient economic incentives to attract high levels of enrollment in the intensive farming areas. Also, the schemes were limited in their success in enrolling farmers in higher payment tiers, tiers that required more substantial changes in farming practices. The high crop and livestock-related payments received by farmers under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contributed to the disincentives to participate, especially in higher tiers. Following the latest (2003) reforms of the EU's CAP, England's ESA program and CSS are being replaced by a new, consolidated package of schemes that draws on lessons learned over the past 15-20Â years with these two flagship programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Dobbs, Thomas L. & Pretty, Jules, 2008. "Case study of agri-environmental payments: The United Kingdom," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 765-775, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:65:y:2008:i:4:p:765-775

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. G. D. Garrod & K. G. Willis, 1995. "Valuing The Benefits Of The South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(2), pages 160-173.
    2. Martin Whitby, 2000. "Challenges and Options for the UK Agri-Environment: Presidential Address," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 317-332.
    3. L. Harrison-Mayfield & J. Dwyer & G. Brookes, 1998. "The Socio-Economic Effects of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(2), pages 157-170.
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