Defra Secretary, George Eustice, has given more details of the transition to the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) in interviews and at the virtual Conservative Party Conference. However, some of his statements have done more to muddy-the-waters rather than provide clarity.
It is clear ELM will have three tiers, with the recently announced Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme (see last month’s Spotlight) being the prototype for Tier 1. This scheme will not be available until 2022 but will be one which most farmers should be able enter. Mr Eustice outlined this as a way of being able to recoup some of the BPS money which will be lost as we go through the Agricultural Transition. No details are available regarding the SFI scheme yet.
Also, in 2022 and 2023, the aim is to ‘drive-up participation in the Countryside Stewardship’. The scheme will be simplified, and will be the ‘steppingstone’ to Tier 2 of ELMs; commitments are likely to be for 3, 5 and 10 years. Ultimately Tier 2 of ELMs will depend on having a Land Management Plan for the farm which is expected be drawn-up between the land manager and an accredited advisor with a menu of options and payment rates. It is this element which will be tested under the ELM pilots in 2021.
In addition, the intention is also to roll out more bespoke schemes, again in 2022/23, which require more complex change of land use, such as woodland creation and peatland restoration. These would form the prototype for Tier 3.
The slightly confusing element is that Mr Eustice referred to a full launch of ELM in 2027 when these ‘prototype’ schemes would be consolidated. This is at odds with previous statements that ELM would launch in ‘late 2024’. It has been indicated in the past that not all elements of ELM would be ready until 2027, even if the scheme launched earlier (although it has never been clear what wouldn’t be ready and how you could launch an incomplete scheme). It is not clear whether this is what Mr Eustice is referring to, or whether the timetable for ELM really has slipped to 2027. The consultations on future policy due next month may provide more clarity.
We are conscious that the details of future farm support have been released rather piecemeal by the Government and have therefore put together a two page summary, outlining how BPS will be phased out over the next seven years and the funding streams which will be available during and after this transition. This will be a ‘living’ document and will be updated when more information is released in the upcoming consultation. The summary can be found at https://theandersonscentre.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ag-Policy-Summary-Oct-20-TAC.pdf
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