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Introduction toNature Markets Assessing landopportunities Working withother farmers Baselining,planning andmeasuring Workingwith buyers Farm businessplanning Liability & riskmanagement Using repayablefinance Signing legalcontracts Public sectorfunding & policy Tenancy &ownership
  1. Groundwork
  2. Market Engagement
Introduction toNature Markets Assessing landopportunities Working withother farmers Baselining,planning andmeasuring Workingwith buyers Farm businessplanning Liability & riskmanagement Using repayablefinance Signing legalcontracts Public sectorfunding & policy Tenancy &ownership
  1. Groundwork
  2. Market Engagement

Summary of the Resilient Glenderamackin Project

The Resilient Glenderamackin project is a catchment based natural flood management project that is working with farmers to mitigate flood risk in West Cumbria. The catchment consists of upland beef and sheep farms across owned, tenanted and common land, and covering a catchment of 14,200ha. West Cumbria Rivers Trust (WCRT) received funding from the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) to explore how to create revenue streams through Natural Flood Management, with support from the Rivers Trust and Nature Finance. The project has applied to transition to Landscape Recovery, which will allow the project to access public money to support project development including developing a business model that could attract private sector payments for flood risk reduction. WCRT have taken on the running of the Glenderamackin Farmer group, made up of 24 landholdings across catchment.

 

Farm Profile:

  • Location: West Cumbria
  • Size of Land: 14,200 ha
  • Farm sizes: 10 – 1000ha
  • Tenancy & Ownership: small family farms, generational tenancies, a small number of large landowners and common land
  • Nature Market Focus: Natural Flood Management
  • Interventions: Pond & wetland creation; tree planting; restoring hedgerows; installing leaky dams and low bunds
  • Project Partners: West Cumbria Rivers Trust, The Rivers Trust, Nature Finance

 

What do I need to know about nature markets to begin with?

 

This section of the Toolkit provides a brief overview of nature markets in England and how they relate to farmers. It is designed to answer some of the early questions that farmers may have around nature markets. All Toolkit content, including this Introductory section, will be updated regularly.

 

What market opportunities are available to me based on my land and goals?

 

This milestone will guide you through an initial assessment of your land as you determine what your broad vision is in relation to nature and help you to identify what opportunities might be available to you to attract private sector finance.

The actions taken at this stage can be taken before you’ve made the firm decision to engage in nature markets. The considerations presented in this milestone will help you determine whether nature market participation makes sense for your goals, the condition of your natural capital and your farming business.

You can also apply many of these considerations to develop a broader vision around your natural capital and other potential funding sources – such as government grant schemes or philanthropic funding.

 

Will I need to partner with other farmers, and if so, how?

 

Once you have a vision for your farm, the environmental enhancements or changes you want to make and a sense of the related income opportunities, you may want to consider joining up with other farmers in your area to implement your outcomes at scale to attract buyers.

Aggregation models, often started among  farmer clusters or as farmer cooperatives, bring together multiple farmers or landowners to collectively participate in nature markets. These models aim to harness the combined efforts and resources of farmers to maximise environmental benefits and economic opportunities. This section will introduce the factors that may influence your decision to join up with other farmers and some of the key considerations to keep in mind when setting up and participating in such a group.

 

How do I measure the environmental outcomes that I can produce in a robust way?

 

At this stage you will have developed an overarching vision for your land and a rough plan for what you want to improve. You will now want to make robust baseline measurements of the condition of your land and develop a detailed plan for interventions and intended outcomes. Plans will also include how you intend to maintain your interventions, measure the impact you are having and verify your outcomes in order to sell them.

 

How should I identify and approach buyers for my outcomes?

 

During your initial project scoping, you may have identified potential buyers of the environmental outcomes you are planning to deliver. Now that you have a project plan and a robust baseline, you will be ready to approach and engage buyers more formally.

Buyers will vary in their expectations and requirements. This milestone will help you prepare for initial conversations with potential buyers to ensure you are empowered to ask the right questions and present a project that will attract a fair price. Your buyers may be within your own supply chain such as retailers and businesses, or organisations who benefit directly from your ecosystem services such as water companies or firms who seek to offset their own environmental impacts.

 

How would this project fit in with my current farming business model?

 

Nature market projects are often just one part of a farmer’s wider business. Some people compare building nature market projects to developing ‘micro businesses’ for the farm. As such, much of the content you see here will be familiar to you.

However, these projects also have key features that separate them from the businesses that farmers usually engage in. For example, the longer timeframes associated and the current uncertainties relating to how nature market projects (and the deals that result) can be blended with government schemes.

Below is a list of questions that will help you think through how to incorporate these projects into your current farm business plan. This includes considerations on building a cashflow or partial budget, but also the less quantifiable factors, such as the potential drawbacks and opportunities to your wider farm that sales of present.

 

What kind of risks should I be aware of and how can I manage them?

 

Like with any aspect of a farm business, risk management is critical – especially for nature market projects that can run over several years. As the landholder, you may be leading the development of the project, be part of a wider group of farmers, or be working with a third-party project developer that is taking the majority of the risk.

In any case, it’s advisable to have a clear understanding of the likelihood of the risks involved, what will happen if the risk materialises, what you as the landholder might be liable for, and how the risk is being managed to prevent this liability.

This Milestone sets out the different types of risks that nature market projects (and the deals that result from them) often carry. The last section covers the types of legal entities that farmers might form, as these can help to manage certain risks and benefit the overall operations of the project.

 

Is it possible to use repayable finance upfront to meet any of the costs?

 

Repayable finance from investors – typically debt or equity – is not always necessary in nature markets if upfront costs can be met by the buyer or through grants.

It’s also important to note that, even when repayable finance is needed, farmers do not necessarily have to secure this themselves.

In the UK, there are very few examples of individual farmers taking out loans and no examples of farmers issuing shares to use specifically to finance a nature market project. Typically, the upfront capital required is organised by a third party – for example, a third-party project developer, a broker etc.

However, as nature markets develop further, and in the case of larger farms, there is potential for farmers to secure repayable finance and meet up-front costs, as with other parts of their business.

The below therefore sets out some questions that farmers (and, more likely, third party project developers) could ask themselves to secure repayable finance from lenders and investors, whether that’s taking on finance independently, or as part of a larger group or partnership.

 

What do I need to be aware of when signing contracts?

 

This Milestone is about the legal contracts you will use and sign to officially commit to the project and transition it to a fully fledged deal. As business owners, farmers are familiar with contracts and understand the need to carefully review the details before signing any such agreements.

Any nature market deal is likely to involve legal agreements that will be tailored to each set of circumstances. However, for ease this Milestone sets out what contract set-ups are used in this space, common contract types, and other key considerations to ask yourself at this stage.

Disclaimer: The information in this Milestone does not constitute any form of legal advice but instead serves as practical advice that has been written by speaking with lawyers, farmers and other practitioners. We recommend that appropriate legal advice should be taken from a qualified solicitor before taking or refraining from any action relating to your contracts and projects.

 

Can I participate on tenanted land?

 

The tenancy and ownership structure of land can have significant implications for farmers engaging in nature markets in the UK. The rights of tenants in relation to nature markets is still not entirely clear in the UK and may differ on a case by case basis. Below are some key considerations which can help both tenants and landlords in asking the right questions when considering engaging in nature markets as policy and legal frameworks develop. Further guidance prepared by the Tenant Farmers Association and the Country, Land and Business Association can be found here. 

 

How do public sector funding and policy align with nature markets?

 

In England, the role of public funding and support to farmers is undergoing change on a scale not seen in decades. The government hopes to strengthen the link between environmental and farming practices to meet its climate and nature restoration targets, while maintaining food security and the viability of farm businesses across the country.

This section offers a summary of how government is working with farmers to access nature markets, and provides guidance on:

 

  • How nature markets might work with public subsidy schemes,
  • What development funding is available for farmers to explore their opportunities,
  • What ‘market infrastructure’ the government is supporting – including Standards and Codes.

Groundwork

 

We have separated out these Milestones into ‘Groundwork’ and ‘Market Engagement’ to indicate which Milestones you will want to read as you consider and/or prepare for nature markets (Groundwork) and those you will move through if and when you decide to become a seller of environmental outcomes (Market Engagement).  

We recommend all farmers read through the Groundwork Milestones in addition to the Introduction to Nature Markets in order to understand better whether nature markets are for them, and how they can, at the very least, explore and baseline their farms so they are ready for any opportunities that may arise later.  

Market Engagement

 

We have separated out these Milestones into ‘Groundwork’ and ‘Market Engagement’ to indicate which Milestones you will want to read as you consider and/or prepare for nature markets (Groundwork) and those you will move through if and when you decide to become a seller of environmental outcomes (Market Engagement).  

We recommend all farmers read through the Groundwork Milestones in addition to the Introduction to Nature Markets in order to understand better whether nature markets are for them, and how they can, at the very least, explore and baseline their farms so they are ready for any opportunities that may arise later.  

 

Acknowledgements 

With many thanks for their time and insight on this case study:

Clair Payne, Project Officer, West Cumbria Rivers Trust

 

 

 

Dan Turner, Technical Lead, Land Management and Market Creation, & Tom Gall, Ecosystem Service Data Analyst  The Rivers Trust

 

The Rivers Trust - Wildlife and Countryside Link

 

 

 

Dan Hird, Principle and Founder, Nature Finance

 

 

Date published: 19/11/2023

Next Milestone

Key Takeaways

  • The Glenderamackin Farmer Group is a continuation of an existing facilitation group in the area, previously run by Cumbria Farmer Network.
  • Farmers in the Glenderamackin Farmer Group are interested in exploring private markets as a means to fill gaps left by the Basic Payment Scheme as part of their wider exploration of agri-environment schemes.
  • The farmers set proposed hosting and maintenance payment rates by voting on each type of NFM intervention and then calculating the total income that a typical farm might receive.
  • The Project’s initial funding came from a Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) grant, which was matched by Natural Course.

 

 

How is the Resilient Glenderamackin project working with the Glenderamackin Farmer Group?

The Glenderamackin project highlights the benefits of working with or building from existing groups in the area rather than starting from scratch. Prior to the establishment of the Glenderamackin Farmer Group, an existing farmer facilitation group in the area, run by the Farmer Network and supported by West Cumbria Rivers Trust had been running for three years.

Working with WCRT, through Defra NFM pilot funding, members of the group had delivered some natural flood management (NFM) projects already, including pond creation, planting bunded hedges across surface flow pathways, planting riparian trees and building leaky dams. Monitoring of these projects helped fill national evidence gaps in NFM and helped to build interest in NFM in the catchment, as well as understanding what might work in this landscape. Supported by WCRT, both the farmer group, and individual farmers, are looking to explore how NFM could generate financial returns and work alongside the farm business.

Farmers who are approached by an external actor to start an aggregation model will need to ensure that the interests and objectives of the farmers and the external advisors are aligned. Having worked with the facilitation group in the past, the WCRT had built trust with member farmers and were well-placed to present the opportunities offered by engaging in nature markets and alleviate any concerns. The WCRT and the farmers share the view that the project should be “locally targeted, locally owned and address local priorities.”

 

Why did the Glenderamackin farmers want to work together?

The Glenderamackin farmers decided to work together for three primary reasons.

 

  1. Filling income gaps

As the group is composed of primarily upland farmers, they were concerned that agri-environment schemes would be insufficient to fill income gaps left by the removal of the BPS. They are exploring how nature markets could present an opportunity to bolster income and improve business resilience.

 

  1. Landscape Recovery

There was an opportunity for the farmers to support a catchment application to the Landscape Recovery Scheme as a pilot project which would give them access to funding and offer an opportunity to feed into policy development.

 

  1. Supporting nature friendly farming

The group are interested to understand how interventions on their land and changes to their land management practices can collectively improve landscape resilience to predicted future climate change whilst supporting nature friendly, sustainable farm businesses.

 

How is the Resilient Glenderamackin project organised?

The Glenderamackin group has taken the form of a Community Interest Company (CIC). Farmers decided on this model as it allows them to have involvement throughout the lifetime of the CIC’s projects and utilises an ‘asset lock’ that ensures no entity is profiting from the activities of the group but rather, the assets are retained or used for the further benefit of the community. You can read more about the different legal entity types that farmers can use in Milestone 6.

The Glenderamackin Farmer group, is currently funded through the Lake District National Park’s Farming in Protected Landscape scheme, it has a core sub-group of 15-24 farmers who attend regular meetings and engage more actively. The group feed into the Resilient Glenderamackin technical and project development work through WCRT. The group’s facilitator keeps members informed through regular meetings and communication.

 

How is the Resilient Glenderamackin project funded?

Prior to the project being ready to sell flood mitigation to buyers, the group had administrative and project development costs that were funded through the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF), and matched by Natural Course. This funding paid for the project manager and project officer from the WCRT and the group’s external project advisors. The group aims to transition to a Landscape Recovery agreement with the remainder of the project delivery costs expected to be covered by the sale of flood mitigation.

The project team approached the Glenderamackin farmer group to give them to opportunity to help set prices and types of projects they would be willing to deliver. The final prices are still to be agreed when the sale of flood mitigation is undertaken.

To model potential revenue, the group created a hypothetical ‘model farm’ that represented the average conditions of the member farms. A variety of interventions were assigned to the model farm and a baseline cost was calculated. The group then discussed each intervention in turn, voting on prices they would accept for the interventions until they reached agreement. Once consensus was reached, the group then calculated for the same model farm what the expected revenue would look like per farm. Each intervention attracts a different rate which was based on existing Countryside Stewardship payments, expected land use change and amount of maintenance required (with additional top-ups for biodiversity and permanent water storage). The group was invited to consider what this would mean for their farm business. WCRT will carry out one-to-one farm visits to work with the farmer to understand what they could deliver on their land to contribute to the project.

The group used average Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments to calculate whether the agreed prices would fill the income gap left by BPS – in many cases, it appears the rates will exceed the income loss.

 

 

Lessons Learned

    1. Timeline

The time it takes to implement and develop a business case and financial model is considerable. The NEIRF funded portion of the project took 15 months to complete, not including the time it took to plan for and apply to the programme.

 

  1. Working together

Setting up an aggregation group that brings together farmers and external organisations will take time, consistency, and compromise to build and maintain trust and to move the project forward. The Resilient Glenderamackin project takes an open book approach to communication to ensure that all parties are aware of how the project is progressing and have opportunities to make their voices heard.

 

  1. Balancing needs

The Resilient Glenderamackin project will impact various stakeholders with different needs. The project needs to find ways to balance landscape needs, farmer needs, cultural needs, and business needs in this protected landscape to bring the project to the delivery stage. This has taken robust planning and a lot of compromise to determine how to deliver priority environmental outcomes while ensuring the projects are commercially viable.

 

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