New scheme to reward farmers for environmental services and benefits

The Environmental Land Management scheme will pay for public goods including improved air, water and soil quality and climate change mitigation

The UK Government has confirmed plans to introduce a new system that rewards farmers for the delivery of environmental public goods and services.

The new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will replace the European Commission’s so-called greening requirements for Direct Payments – which requires them to carry out specified practices to qualify for additional payments – from the 2021 scheme year.

The public goods ELM will pay for include improved air, water and soil quality, increased biodiversity, climate change mitigation, cultural benefits and better protection of historic environments.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) suggests the EU’s greening requirements have “historically delivered little for the environment”, citing the European Court of Auditors’ 2017 report.

It wants farmers to begin the move towards the ELM scheme, which it says will deliver greater benefits for the environment and reduce red tape.

It is expected to be rolled out in late 2024, with the agricultural transition period expected to last for seven years.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The so-called greening requirements have added little to our environmental efforts. We believe that farmers will benefit from this reduced bureaucratic burden next year as we begin the move towards our new Environmental Land Management scheme which will deliver greater benefits for the environment.

“We will be setting out more detail in the autumn on how we will ensure a smooth transition for our farmers as they move towards our new, fairer agricultural system, which will reward them for the hard work that they do to protect our environment.”

Farmers will continue to be able to apply to Countryside Stewardship schemes until the future scheme is rolled out.

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