Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2

ESA vs Arable Area Payment: A Case Study

  Within an ESA, archaeological survey recently identified a site shown by further research to be an early Roman iron-smelting site operated by the Roman army shortly after the Conquest. So dense and rich was the concentration of iron slag that the fertiliser rep's soil tests gave the highest phosphate levels he had ever found in a field. This was recognised long ago: by the 13th century, the farm was known by a name reflecting the exceptional richness of the soil.

  Despite a history of cultivation, trial excavation showed that archaeological stratigraphy survived below ground. However, the farmer was keen to subsoil this, the best field on the farm. Indeed, it was his only arable field on an otherwise pasture farm, where winter fodder, maize and turnips, are grown. It provides 25 per cent of his total feed.

  From the archaeological point of view, the removal of the field from cultivation is desirable, and the avoidance of subsoiling essential. From the farmer's point of view, to cease cultivation would entail a major change to the farming regime, and, presumably, a change to bought-in feed. The farmer is quite interested in the archaeological discover, and well disposed to looking after it, in principle. He does not wish to destroy it, and has so far refrained from subsoiling. However, the figures facing him are stark:

    ESA payment for arable reversion of the area would be a maximum £75 per ha. An English Heritage Acknowledgement Payment/Management Agreement would be a maximum £50-60 per ha.

  His present Arable Area payment is £225 per ha—and he has the crop (all figures annual).

  He feels has only one choice.

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