Four Agri-TechE members have been appointed by Defra to support farmers in making the agricultural transition to ELMS, a new payments scheme which aims to reward good environmental management.
Support for UK farmers was first introduced after the Second World War to guarantee a food supply and to increase productivity. It was initially successful: by 1956 output was 60 percent above pre-war levels. Part of this drive was to improve grassland to reduce the amount of expensive imported animal feed.
Support for farmers
However, the guaranteed prices paid for produce started to create a burden for the tax payer and the payments were reviewed in a meeting between the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and the president of the NFU in 1960. The resulting White Paper described the industry as making a ‘valuable contribution’ to the balance of payments while at the same time ‘ensuring a countryside in which the whole nation can find pride and enjoyment’. This policy of price guarantees continued and became increasingly problematic until the UK joined the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
While in the EU, eligible farmers were able to claim income support under the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) based on the hectares they farmed. Each country is able to impose its own limitations on the number of entitlements. Under BPS the support is paid directly to the farmer and for some smaller farmers it can make a significant contribution to their income.
Reward for environmental management
Now that the UK has left the EU there is a seven-year agricultural transition to a new system that will reward farmers for environmental improvements alongside food production on their land. The details of how this will work are still unclear and trials are continuing to formulate the best way to assess good environmental management and how to reward this.
The new payment scheme is called the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).
To help in this transition process, the government has developed ‘The Future Farming Resilience Fund’ to provide business support to farmers and land managers who are currently in receipt of BPS to help them navigate the changes over this period.
This will be delivered by 19 partner organisations and the aim is to co-design the new payments system. The final phase which will be available from 2022-2024.
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “As we continue to co-design and develop the future schemes it is important that the industry has access to expert support and knowledge. I urge farmers and land managers to sign up to the Future Farming Resilience Fund now to ensure that come August they are able to use the help that is available to them.”
Sustainable Farming Incentive 2022 – the first of three environmental land management schemes. Farmers are able to access up to £70 per hectare for improving the health of their soil.
Farming in Protected Landscapes programme – aimed at farmers and other land managers in England based in National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The funding will go towards one-off projects to support nature recovery, improve public access, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to enjoy and understand the landscape, and support nature-friendly and sustainable farm businesses.
Consultation on exit – The Government also launched a consultation on the lump sum exit scheme to support those ready to leave the sector to do so on their own terms.
Further information of grant providers, geographical coverage and contact details can be found on Defra’s Farming Is Changing blog on GOV.UK.