Farmers encouraged to join ELM scheme after Cereals roundtable
The programme director for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme, Janet Hughes, spoke to farmers at the event to explain the new schemes and answer questions about their implications.
Mark Chatterton, head of agriculture at Duncan & Toplis, which supports nearly one thousand farming businesses, said that most farmers at the discussion concluded that they were more willing to join the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme in future. He said: “Janet came across as very open and honest in the roundtable we hosted with farmers at Cereals. Although future subsidies will be lower than the BPS, having something coming in annually does bring more stability to your income given the volatility in crop production and, in my experience, every farm has some marginal land that should benefit from these schemes.
“My own conclusion from Cereals 2023 was that food production will still be over 50% of our clients turnover and profits. There may well be an increase in rental and diversification income but most of the land area will need farming well for food production. Getting the right agronomy, sprayer and operator is the key.
“We act for many amazing farmers who are extremely good at their jobs, so we look forward to the next 10 years as the industry continues to evolve.”
As programme director for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Janet Hughes is responsible for delivering the new ELM scheme which is replacing BPS over the 2020 to 2027 period.
Speaking at the Duncan & Toplis roundtable at the Cereals agricultural event near Newark, she told farmers: “I’m impressed by the sector’s ‘can-do’ attitude and I’m keen to see the project through.”
Ms Hughes explained that the measure of success would be for over 70% of farms to sign up to the ELM scheme, adding that more and more farms are signing up for Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) grants and many are already in their fifth year of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS).
She also stressed that DEFRA wanted a two-way system with farmers, and explained that ‘old style’ penalties would not be applied to SFI schemes and that DEFRA inspections are now termed ‘visits’.
The UK government has committed that the £2.4bn that was allocated to the BPS will be ring fenced, with the spending allocated to a mix of environmental payments through CSS and SFI together with grants for specific projects.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is pressing for rate increases but Ms Hughes said that an increase in line with retail prices index (RPI) could not be guaranteed as her DEFRA budget was not RPI linked. However, SFI rates have increased for 2023.
More information about the ELM scheme and other support schemes for farming businesses in England and Wales is available from the gov.uk website.