A new points-based agri-environment scheme is being trialled on farms and crofts across Scotland.
The scheme, Piloting an Outcomes Based Approached Project in Scotland (Pobas), is being delivered by NatureScot, formerly Scottish Natural Heritage, on behalf of the Scottish Government.
It will run until 2023 and offer payments to participating producers who make a positive environmental impact on their land. It follows a successful first phase of the scheme, which concluded in spring and involved more than 60 farmers and crofters across Scotland.
Projects include developing flower-rich habitats in Argyll and Skye and managing habitat for wading birds in Strathspey.
Tomintoul farmer Jim Simmons from Ruthven Farm is one of the those involved in the project.
He said: “This project brought together a group of like-minded practical farming folk who have had the chance to give input right from the start to help create a scheme which is both practical and likely to achieve its aims, while continuing to allow productive farming.
“In the past, schemes have sometimes been too prescriptive, not allowing flexibility, for example, for differences in geographical areas and the timing of seasons.”
NatureScot’s head of natural resources, Claudia Rowse, said the aim of the pilot was to develop a fully tried-and-tested approach to agri-environment payments that could be part of a new support system following the phase-out of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2024.
She said: “Farmers decide how to achieve a positive environmental result on their land and their fields’ environmental quality is scored.
“The more the land supports nature, the higher the score and consequently the higher the payment.”
NFU Scotland vice-president Martin Kennedy welcomed the pilot, adding: “Higher payments for delivering greater environmental outcomes is a sensible approach as long as the farmer has control over the result.”