A new study conducted by the Green Alliance and National Trust suggests that England’s upland livestock farmers could earn over £15,000 profit a year by entering into private water management contracts with businesses in areas susceptible to flooding.
The report shows that upland farmers are losing £10,800 a year on average and there are fears that many will go out of business when Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies end in 2022.
However, the report shows that a new private market in water management services, based on a model called a National Infrastructure Scheme (NIS), could be a source of profit for upland farmers.
A model of the scheme reveals that a consortium of 10 upland farmers selling flood management services would be able to protect a downstream town against a severe, one-in-75-year flood event and reduce levels of water pollution.
In the example, susceptible organisations downstream, such as Network Rail, the local electricity supplier and the local water and sewerage company, would buy into the scheme, which would be cheaper for them than the normal cost of comparable protection from flooding and water contamination.
Creating and operating the NIS would cost the farmers just over £6.5 million over 15 years, which includes lost agricultural income from the land used for the scheme. However, the overall cost saving from the scheme would be £4.7 million. Split equally between the buying organisations and the farmers, this would net the farmers £15,658 in profit per year for 15 years.
As a spokesman for the National Trust pointed out, not only would the NIS present a new model that delivers clear public benefit but it could also play a part in restoring a healthy, functioning natural environment.