Agri-Environmental Governance Post-Brexit : Co-production of policy frameworks

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Geography


The UK's decision to leave the European Union represents the most substantial change in the governance of UK agricultural land use since the UK's incorporation into the EU's Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) in 1973. This could affect approximately 218 000 agricultural holdings and involve a potentially radical change in the management and governance of 72% of the UK's land.

To achieve the UK government's vision of a 'Green Brexit' (Defra, 2018), a new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme is in the process of being devised. This will mean that the c.£2.3bn of annual payments to UK farmers will be based upon the principle of 'public money for public goods' (e.g. enhanced biodiversity and improved soil, water and air quality), replacing the current EU CAP system that allocates payments based upon the amount of land owned by the claimant. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - which is the government department responsible for devising and delivering the post-Brexit ELM - has stated that this new policy will be developed in collaboration with stakeholders. In order to contribute to the development of this scheme, this project will work with Defra and multiple stakeholders to develop and test a model for 'co-producing' the post-Brexit ELM scheme. This will improve our understanding of the ways by which the principles and practices of co-production can be applied to help create more effective government policy and identify ways to collaboratively involve the people and organisations most affected by the policy changes at all stages of the process.

To help design, deliver and evaluate the post-Brexit ELM policy development process, this project will:

1. Bring together international case studies and academic, policy and stakeholder expertise to understand and develop more effective ways to co-produce the post-Brexit Environmental Land Management policy;
2. Work with active ELM trial projects (through participatory research) to understand what works' in terms of governance, participation and how this new approach functions in practice;
3. Involve stakeholders from individual farm level through to Non-Governmental Organisations, industry and policy (including the Devolved Administrations) via workshops and policy labs to help critique and refine the ELM policy;
4. Reflect on how useful this model of co-production is in creating new government policies and in producing impactful academic research

The findings of this research will be relevant to the UK Government, agricultural and environmental organisations and to the individuals - primarily farmers and land managers - as they adjust to the reformed relationships that will result from the UK's exit from the EU.

Planned Impact

The aim of this project is to understand and develop new principles and practices of co-production and investigate how they can be deployed to help design, deliver and evaluate the post-Brexit Environmental Land Management policy development process. Users and beneficiaries have been involved at the concept and development stage of the proposal and the programme of research has been designed to facilitate co-production of knowledge and outcomes with users throughout the process.

The transition to a new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme has fundamental implications for the UK government in terms of its perceived ability to deliver a workable and effective policy (including financial, reputational and political risks); stakeholder groups in responding to and enacting changes as the policy develops; and for users such as individual farmers and land managers for whom reform has far-reaching socio-economic consequences.

Beneficiaries from this research include:

Government: The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and a key delivery partner (Natural England) have been involved since the project's inception and will remain active collaborators and beneficiaries throughout the phases of work. For government and policymakers this project will provide a route to formulate a credible and integrated ELM policy based upon engagement with experts in the academic community, key stakeholder groups and individuals affected by the policy. The project will build capacity within Defra and arms-length environmental bodies like Natural England for a pragmatic and innovative form of co-production designed for deliberative and active policymaking environments. The co-production framework will be translatable to all policymaking areas across Government and Devolved Administrations where collaborative and active democratisation of public policy is a central element. This will ensure that project has the widest possible sustained impact.

Stakeholders: This project will ensure that stakeholder groups from across the agri-environmental spectrum (as owners of part of the farmed environment, implementers of policy or representatives of those actively managing the agri-environment) have a voice in developing the constitution of the new ELM. This will assist to fulfil the remit of these organisations in ensuring that decisions regulating the agri-environment continue to benefit conservation and wildlife activities, are environmentally sustainable and provide sustained social and economic benefits for their members and beyond. The opportunity to take part in the co-production of the ELM policy has been welcomed by our collaborators, recognising the potential for active contribution to the development of the ELM policy and the wider benefit to their organisations in learning from co-production methodologies to enhance their interactions with their memberships (see Letters of Support). Our collaborators - including the National Farmers' Union, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Country Land and Business Association - have substantial combined reach in terms of membership and their involvement in the research process will ensure that project outcomes are accessible to a wide range of relevant users and beneficiaries.

Users: The project findings will inform Defra's evidence base, ensuring that the voices of those most affected by the new policy - especially farmers and land managers - are heard within the process and will, therefore, benefit from this research. The provision of co-production toolkits to our collaborators (above) will also enable productive two-way dialogues and facilitate collaborative approaches between members and organisations as opposed to the more conventional models of top-down knowledge transfer.


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