We all know that farming is critical to getting food on our plates. But farmers and foresters also manage the beautiful landscapes we all love so much, as well as enhance wildlife habitats, clean up our rivers and lakes, provide healthier soils, create better air quality, reduce flooding, and capture carbon in soil. All of these deliver social, environmental and economic benefits, which is why, at the end of 2021, DEFRA launched the Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs). These new schemes will reward farmers for sustainable land management and go some way to reducing the impact of Basic Payment Scheme loss to farmers.
How do the ELM schemes work?Each environmental land management scheme is voluntary and has been specifically established to reward farmers and landowners for improving the environment. Farmers are free to choose the activities that are right for their particular setting and are compensated for the activities they undertake. Previous ELMs have seen very positive results, proving beneficial to habitats and species, landscape character and water quality, with at least £3.20 of public goods returned for every £1 put in.
Let’s take a closer look at each scheme.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)The focus here is to make farming more sustainable, covering activities that all farmers can choose to apply on their own land. Options include improving soil management, reducing the use of non-organic fertilisers and pesticides, improving farmland biodiversity, increasing air and water quality, and carbon capture. When done at scale across the whole farmed landscape, this scheme has the potential to have a huge impact on the UK environment.
We often hear, “But where does food production fit with these policies?” At first glance, it would appear it doesn’t, but if you look closely at the Sustainable Farming Incentive, the scheme options support more productive agriculture. Better soil health, the addition of legumes, reducing the need for inorganic fertilisers, and more rotational grazing of herbal leys will, by their very nature, improve grassland production and animal performance.
Countryside Stewardship Plus (CS+)Instead of developing a new Local Nature Recovery scheme, the second tier of ELMs is an expansion of the existing Countryside Stewardship scheme with about thirty additional options, all rewarding farmers for taking coordinated action to support climate and nature aims. Capital grants are also available. In time, it is expected that SFI and CS+ will merge into one scheme with one application portal.
Landscape RecoveryThis scheme is for landowners or farmers who want to make more radical and large-scale land use changes to enhance habitat and ecosystem restoration. Applications for pilot projects will open in two rounds over the next two years.
Keen to know more?Our free information workshop, Farm Grants Update & Navigating the Agricultural Transition, provides more detailed information on the changes to the Basic Payment Scheme, environmental land management schemes, other available grants and how to get ongoing support. It’s also a chance to meet with other farmers or land managers in your local area and share questions or concerns in a supportive environment.
We are running several of these workshops a month across a range of south west locations until the end of March 2025. The workshops are free and available to any farmer or land manager currently in receipt of BPS payments in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall, or the Isles of Scilly.
We also offer commercial services to agricultural business. These include helping you prepare appraisals to support planning applications, basic payment scheme applications, and farming equipment and technology fund applications.
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