NFU warns government changes to ELMs ‘risks being too little, too late’

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned the government’s changes to the Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) could be “too little, too late.”

The changes announcd by farming minister Mark Spencer at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference, include a Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) ‘Management Payment’ which could consist of up to an additional £1,000 per year, covering up to 50 hectares of land entered into the scheme.

New and existing Countryside Stewardship agreement holders will also see an average increase of 10% to their revenue payment rates.

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However while NFU vice president, David Exwood has said that the changes are “welcome”, he adds it “risks being too little too late, especially given the current economic challenges we are experiencing and the rapid erosion of direct payments.”

“It is hugely frustrating that nearly five years on from Defra’s Health and Harmony consultation, which set farming in England on a path towards public goods for public payments, we still only have three standards available for the SFI.

“It’s a sad reflection of the scheme’s progress and development that NFU members know more about what they will lose in direct payments than what they will gain from taking part in these new schemes.”

Last week, The Guardian reported that only 224 farmers were paid under the SFI scheme last year, according to leaked figures.

As a result, te NFU are asking for ELMs to be “simple, provide certainty and fairly reward farmers for taking part.”

Exwood said that they should be “inclusive and available to every farm business” with a “foundation SFI standard” to ensure the high uptake needed to have the best impact, while being practical and profitable options.

He added: “Ministers must also demonstrate transparently how direct payments have been redirected to the ELM programme.”



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