Farmers and landowners express concerns over new land management scheme

The new land management scheme has been brought in by the Agriculture BillThe new land management scheme has been brought in by the Agriculture Bill
The new land management scheme has been brought in by the Agriculture Bill
Farmers and landowners have concerns over the lack of clarity around the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), according to a new survey carried out by rural experts.

Feedback from the report by the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) and Strutt & Parker showed there is a strong interest in the environment and the need to tackle climate change, but the new ‘public money for public goods’ system needs clarification.

Released to mark the CLA’s first Rural Powerhouse Week, which started on Monday (Nov 23), it offers an insight into how farmers and landowners feel about the shift away from the EU’s Basic Payment System to ELMS, which has been brought in through the new Agriculture Bill.

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James Farrell, Head of Rural at Strutt & Parker, said: “The Government is committed to meeting a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 and its ability to reduce emissions from land use will be reliant on the actions of land managers. This is why it is so important to understand how farmers and landowners are feeling about changes in policy and what motivates them.”

The report found that 80 percent agreed with the idea of paying land managers for producing ‘public goods’ which include air and water quality, carbon offsetting and animal welfare, with the same percentage saying they were concerned about current losses in biodiversity.

More than half reported they were already taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 64 per cent said a sense of personal responsibility would motivate them to make climate change a higher priority in terms of managing their land and property.

There was also a high number – four out of five – who said they would sign up to ELMS, or an equivalent scheme when it becomes fully available in 2024.

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CLA President Mark Bridgeman said: “It’s very encouraging to see that mitigating climate change and reversing biodiversity decline is at the top of many farming businesses’ priority list.

Also that farmers and landowners are keen to take part in the Government’s new ELMS scheme.”

But he also issued a warning as respondents had also signalled they do have concerns about how ELMS will operate.

“These results do show, however, some trends that will concern government, whose optimism for the move towards ‘public money for public goods’ is clearly not shared by all farmers.”

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According to the figures, a high proportion, 76 per cent, thought the payments would insufficient with 64 per cent saying they expected the change from the BPS payments to ELMS to result in lower farm profitability.

“The CLA believes ELMS has the potential to be a world-leading land management policy,” said Mr Bridgeman. “But there are clear risks associated with transitioning from the old system to the new. Ministers should consider these findings carefully.”

Mr Farrell agreed, saying the survey indicated “a lack of confidence” within the sector about the implementation of ELMS.

“There are some actions, particularly those which require permanent land use changes, where landowners may be less willing to get involved.

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“We hope that Defra can address this as they refine their plans for ELMS over the coming months.”


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