ELMs – Defra announces long-awaited detail on actions for funding

First published: 26 January 2023

An image of a farming landscape at sunset

Defra has announced further details on the roll-out of its ELMs (Environmental Land Management scheme) programme, including an expansion of the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive), which NFU Vice President David Exwood has described as a "broader and more flexible offer". 

Following on from the Farming Minister, Mark Spencer's, announcement at the Oxford Farming conference that there would be changes to the ELMs roll-out, Defra has now given further clarity on the full range of actions farmers will be able to claim funding for through the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) and CS (Countryside Stewardship) schemes and what the payment rates will be. 

“It’s encouraging that Defra has provided us with more detail on the future of the ELM programme and brought forward a broader, more flexible offer for the SFI," said NFU Vice President David Exwood. 

What are the new changes?

Under the SFI, farmers will be able to receive payment for actions on:

  • hedgerows
  • grassland
  • arable
  • horticultural land
  • pest management
  • nutrient management

These are in addition to the three existing standards introduced in 2022.

Further detail has also be given on improvements to the Countryside Stewardship scheme, with 30 additional options announced for agreements starting in 2024. 

david exwood crop 04

"British farmers are committed to delivering net zero agriculture by 2040, and the NFU remains committed to working with Defra to improve its ELM offer."

NFU Vice President David Exwood

A second round of the Landscape Recovery scheme will also open in the Spring calling for bids delivering on net zero, protected sites and habitat creation.

Read our guide to the full ELMs prospectus: NFU members | ELMs Prospectus 2023

Full detail needed as soon as possible

Responding to Defra’s latest announcement, David said: “Information on the six new standards for SFI 2023, payments rates, as well as the evolving Countryside Stewardship scheme, is incredibly useful and provides some of the clarity we have been asking for.

“For farmers and growers making crucial long-term decisions that are essential to running viable and profitable food producing businesses, it’s vital they have the full scheme details as soon as possible and know how the different schemes will work together.

“A speedy application and payment process will also be key to give farm businesses some much-needed security.

Scheme must be inclusive

David laid out the NFU's key asks for ELMs to be successful; it needs to be simple, provide certainty, and fairly reward farmers for taking part. 

The NFU Vice President detailed that this means schemes must be inclusive and available to every type of farm business. 

“British farmers are committed to delivering net zero agriculture by 2040, and the NFU remains committed to working with Defra to improve its ELM offer. It’s in all our interests to ensure sustainable, climate-friendly British farming in the future, with farmers producing food alongside their work in maintaining and protecting the environment,” David concluded.

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