The Farming Social Hub - a voice for the farming community

ELMS under review gets mixed – and strong – reaction

As the Truss-led government continues to move away from the policies of the Johnson era, the future of environmental land management schemes is under the spotlight.

The schemes, collectively known as ELMS, were devised to replace the EU subsidies which had been paid to farmers as basic farming payouts based on land under cultivation. Under ELMS, farmers would need to show they were supporting nature and the environment through farming practices. Three schemes made up the ELMS programme of subsidies: Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery.

The new scheme, which would replace the £3.5bn annually paid to farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme, had been a focal point for DEFRA for the past three years. Numerous consultations, meetings and pilot schemes between DEFRA officials, farming, conservation and environmental groups have been held and the schemes had been tweaked and modified as farmers geared up for the ‘biggest change in farming payments for 40 years.’

Now the government has called for a review of ELMS, prompting an outburst from groups ranging from the RSPB to the National Trust.

‘Rather than ramp up action to support our environment, this government appears to be heading in the opposite direction,’ was the angry response to the review from director-general of the National trust, Hilary McGrady.

Cambridgeshire farmer Martin Lines, who is chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said any delay to ELMS would deny farmers the crucial support they needed to adapt to a changing climate.

And chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts Craig Bennet said: ‘If we revert to an agricultural system where people get given tax payers money on the basis of how much land they own then one of the potential benefits of Brexit will have been squandered as it is unfair and unsustainable.’

The review has however been welcomed by NFU President Minette Batters who has consistently voiced concerns about the scheme, suggesting it would not benefit farmers with smaller land parcels and could compromise food production.

‘We called for a delay not because we wanted to hang on to the status quo,’ said Batters, ‘but because we believed the Sustainable Farming Incentive needed to have more detail.

‘We have always called for a better policy, one that does deliver for food production and the environment.’

A report earlier this year by the Green Alliance estimated that delaying ELMS by two years would reduce the savings on agricultural emissions delivered by 2035 by half.

DEFRA say the review is necessary because of increased pressure on farming through the cost of living crisis and the pressure of food security and boosting economic growth.