ELMS: Where are we now?

The government has announced its long-awaited system of subsidies for Environmental Land Management (ELM). So, what’s new? We break down the progress made with ELMs to date, and where it’s heading in the future. 

Having caused widespread concern by announcing a review into the viability of the ELMs scheme in late 2022, there was speculation that the subsidy would be axed entirely, with a return to a CAP-style system defined by area based payments. Nonetheless, it was confirmed that ELM would be implemented, split into three unique, but integrated levels; Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), Countryside Stewardship “plus”, and Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS). Despite this confirmation, however, it was unclear not only who could access the schemes and the specific details of their implementation, but exactly how much farmers and land managers would be paid for certain actions.

Today however, the government announced the payment rates for the three tiers. Therese Coffey, alongside this announcement, told land managers that “we are speeding up the rollout of our farming schemes so that everyone can be financially supported as they protect the planet while producing food more sustainably.” It is hoped that this will allow the sector to have a clearer picture for the future, and can finally start making plans for getting paid to create “public good” such as clean water, biodiversity uplift and woodland creation. 

Applications for some of the payments will open in February, with others to follow in March, and some will be rolled out later in the year and next year. LNR is being trialled throughout 2023 with the hope that all eligible applicants can apply from the end of 2024. Payments under the English Woodland Creation Offer continue to be available, as well as Countryside Stewardship applications having recently opened. Land managers hoping to apply will have to keep a close watch for Defra’s announcements, given the staged rollout of availability. Nonetheless, the ELM announcements represent a crucial step forward for environmental-based payments in the land sector, bringing some much needed clarity and long-awaited peace of mind.

In such a critical time for the land sector, though, it is imperative that land managers and farmers are continued to be empowered to make sustainable decisions and access funding to produce public goods. 

To avoid a piecemeal approach to restoring ecosystems through ELMS, interventions must be designed collaboratively and at the landscape level, to ensure maximum ecological and financial benefit is brought about by these schemes. Having the ability to assess and baseline your land, habitat assessment and co-design land management plans has never been more important.

We’ll continue working to ensure that as many land managers as possible can access the latest spatial data, payment information and the critical tools needed to design a sustainable planet, together. 

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