New environmental cooperative set up to help farmers access natural capital markets

The recently launched Central England branch of the Environmental Farmers Group (EFG) offers its members a low-risk, high-value head start in environmental trading.

90 farmers gathered at a packed-out event at Boughton Hall, Northamptonshire, to launch the EFG’s new region. By helping to secure environmental trades for its members, the pioneering farmer-led cooperative ensures they receive fair reward for delivering biodiversity, clean water and carbon sequestration, while providing investors with a single point of contact. The EFG’s equalisation structure means all members benefit from every trade done through the group.

Northamptonshire arable farmer and Central England EFG committee member Andrew Pitts attended the event. He said, “The EFG is about members helping each other to capture value for the farmer rather than a third party. We are better off working together, whether that’s through buyers’ groups or joining marketing cooperatives for arable crops, or environmental goods. Because EFG has backing from a wide range of expertise including financial, legal, accountancy, policy and ecology it reduces the risk of entering an emerging market and maximises return with some of the early trades trebling value for the farmer. It gives you confidence to do things with those poorer bits of ground that don’t add to the bottom line, but which can be turned into very profitable parts of the farm.

It also has the advantage of scale. We can do a lot to restore nature on our own land, but if we can link farm to farm and parish to parish we can make a real difference. For example, we have successfully increased the population of rare wood white butterflies and if we can secure funding to create similar habitats, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t spread out to neighbouring farms.”

Central England promises to have the largest geographical spread of all the EFG regions with the potential to cover 710,000 hectares, including catchments in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. By blending public and private finance, it aims to help farmers fill the future funding gap, with £125m due to be lost annually from BPS payments in the region.

Central England group chair Johnny Wake said, “We’ve had huge interest in our group from the region’s farming community and we are looking forward to them joining as full members. Those who get onboard early will avoid missing out on the first deals and it should only take one good trade to cover the modest membership fee. In return, they will benefit from insight into evolving natural capital markets ensuring they stay ahead of the game. The EFG is based on a landscape-scale approach to conservation; the more land managers the group represents the greater number of attractive projects it can offer investors to the benefit of all.”

EFG’s executive function is provided by Natural Capital Advisory (NCA) a subsidiary of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). NCA is currently working on 22 trading opportunities worth over £25m on behalf of EFG and provides its environmental auditing and monitoring service, guaranteeing a high level of assurance. GWCT chief exec Teresa Dent, said: “It’s wonderful that such a large group of neighbouring farmers has shown enthusiasm for the concept of the rapidly expanding EFG. We look forward to welcoming them into the wider group and working with them on their large-scale conservation plan whilst helping them develop their distinctive cell with its unique geographical and cultural identity. Given the group’s proximity to large industrial urban areas there is huge potential for Central England farmers to play a key role in delivering statuary and voluntary environmental offsets, meeting and beating government nature positive targets in the process.”

Combined with its developing sister environmental cooperatives the EFG now represents an impressive 660,000 acres or 3% of England’s farmed area managed by 560 farmers who support the central aims of Biodiversity & Species Recovery by 2030, Clean Water and Carbon Net Zero by 2040.

One Reply to “New environmental cooperative set up to help farmers access natural capital markets”

  1. Thomas binfield

    The government should leave our farmers alone it’s there land not the governments and we are behind our farmers 100% it wants farmers fighting back on this everything should be sold from our farms not nothing from overseas British farming is always the best let’s start fighting back

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