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A new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is due to be rolled out in full by the end of 2024. This scheme will largely replace all schemes currently available under the Common Agricultural Policy, as well as offer financial support for farming businesses as BPS payments begin to be phased out from 2021.
Full details of the ELMS are yet to be unveiled. However, in an attempt to bridge the gap for the loss of direct payments, the Government have proposed plans for a temporary land management scheme to be introduced sooner than 2024. George Eustice, DEFRA Secretary of State, hinted at the proposal back in February this year by saying “we may simplify the existing Countryside Stewardship Scheme even further so that it can become a stepping stone to help farmers gradually move towards the future policy”.
Since then, the plan has emerged and been dubbed the ‘Sustainable Farming Incentive’ and it is thought it may be introduced as a standalone scheme from 2022, prior to the full ELMS in 2024. It is believed the Incentive scheme may offer similar payment rates to the existing Countryside Stewardship, in return for soil and wildlife friendly practices, to support farm business incomes in the transitional period.
Non-government organisations including the NFU and Tenant Farmers Association have echoed this in a ‘white paper’ style proposal, the Sustainable Food and Farming Scheme (SFFS). The key difference being that the paper argues in favour of introducing entry level elements of ELMS from 2022 which will then continue to evolve into ELMS in full capacity in 2024, rather than a separate, temporary scheme. There are concerns that the detached scheme proposed by the Government could steer funding away from the end goal of ELMS and ultimately result in a delay in its implementation.
It is evident that the Government has recognised a need to continue to provide some form of support for the transition period, but in what capacity is uncertain at this stage. An update from the Government is expected in the coming months to include a consideration of the SFFS and final plans for any interim land management scheme.