A marbled white butterfly on a pink flower

High Nature Value (HNV) Farming

Farming systems that are inherently good for nature

What is HNV farming?

RSPB organic farm at Lake Vyrnwy, Shropshire, Wales

HNV describes farming which also sustains threatened species and habitats, supports healthy, thriving ecosystems and delivers a range of broader benefits to society. Generally associated with low intensity livestock farming throughout the UK, HNV systems adopt a range of farming practices that are inherently good for nature.

Why is it important?

Corncrake, Crex crex, at Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll, Scotland

Farming in this way supports a range of wildlife and habitats which rely on conditions created by certain farming practices. They include sensitively managing grasslands through grazing and cutting for hay, which provides ideal habitat for birds such as the curlew and the corncrake. Farming in this way also includes providing semi-natural habitats on the farm which are beneficial to nature.

The threats to HNV farming

Views across the marsh towards Benarty hill, Vane Farm RSPB reserve, Kinross, Scotland

Despite its immense importance for nature, HNV farming faces significant threats. Many of these farms are found in some of our most challenging places where productive farming is handicapped by bad weather, less productive soils and being further from markets. Previous agricultural policies have overwhelmingly supported the most productive farms and landscapes, failing to reward the other benefits that HNV farming can provide. This has left many of them in a fragile economic position.

A prosperous future for HNV farming

Machair habitat and northern Marsh orchid at RSPB Balranald nature reserve, North Uist

With the right support and investment HNV farming can support our most treasured species and habitats while remaining profitable and productive. These farms can also play a key part in battling the climate emergency as well as having a significant role in vibrant rural economies.

Supporting HNV Farming

Cirl bunting sat among blades of green grass, looking at the camera

Targeted support and investment is needed to sustain HNV farming. Support should include:

  • Rural policies which promote and reward HNV farms as a key part of helping nature recover
  • Funding policies based on delivering successful, clearly defined benefits to nature.
  • Business advice to increase the economic resilience of HNV farms.
  • Fair investment tailored to the location and environmental conditions of HNV farms.