Oncoming Farming and Climate Revolution with Environmental Land Management Schemes

Post-Brexit DEFRA plans will bring climate-focused replacement to Countryside Stewardship and subsidy policy. 

The UK’s departure from the European Union has provided a ground-breaking opportunity for significant new agricultural domestic policy. DEFRA are proposing a flagship Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM) to encourage sustainable farming practices and actions that enhance habitat health, and Nick Mullins, Rural Surveyor from H&H Land & Estates stresses the importance of engaging with the consultation process currently under way. As the first substantial UK specific agricultural legislation for over 40 years, it looks to be the keystone to Britain’s 21st Century farming strategy and fight against the Climate Crisis.

The ELMs policy consultation procedure has begun and is open until 31st July 2020. This enables landowners, farmers, and other stakeholders to share their views. Often farmers are under-represented in these consultations and discussions, despite them being those who are usually responsible for management of the land and implementing schemes.

Nick comments on the process:
“We would encourage all farmers to get involved and make a response to this consultation, as it is a forum where they can highlight their concerns and ideas. Due to the planned phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme, ELMs will be the only means by which farmers can receive government financial support, so it is vital that they make the most of this opportunity to be empowered and influence. H&H Land & Estates are submitting a response to the consultation to ensure that the important issues of agriculture, food production and the environment are covered in ELMs, as well as delivering effective administration and management of the schemes themselves.”

With the ELM scheme, farmers and landowners will be paid for work that improves the environment. This “public money for public goods” approach could be driven by a results-based payments system where the main areas farmers will be expected to deliver on include: clean air, biodiversity and wildlife restoration, reduction of environmental hazards and pollution, clean water, enhanced landscapes. It also promotes measures to minimise the impacts of climate change such as flood mitigation, tree planting and soil conservation. The policy looks to position agri-businesses at the forefront of reversing environmental declines and tackling climate change in plans to reshape the future of farming.

ELMs has huge potential to be a significant improvement on the existing Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme and can help farmers protect their land whilst providing some financial support. ELMs will form three tiers with the most basic available for all farmers to help maximise increased uptake, which has been an issue under CS. Tiers 2 and 3 are set to be more targeted and location specific focusing on key issues. However, this consultation is a chance to influence the scheme and future policy.

The government have provided a seven-year transition time frame for phasing out existing subsidy schemes and transitioning to the new schemes. If the Agricultural Bill is passed, Basic Payment Scheme Subsidies (BPS) will start to be phased out from next year (2021) and fully ending in 2027. ELMs will then begin with a national pilot in 2021 with the new schemes projected to be available from 2024.

Nick concludes:
“It is likely that ELMs will not provide the same level of support as farmers have received under BPS. Therefore, it is sensible for farmers to prepare their businesses now for the changes that we will see over the next few years in terms of available support schemes. Going forward, the sector as a whole is increasingly understanding nature’s role as foundational to our economy, and our health and well-being.”

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