Details of UK green farming subsidies revealed

Clouds over poppy fields with fences on the edge.  View of the Vale of York from the Yorkshire Lavender Farm near Terrington, North Yorkshire.

Farmers will be paid to maintain fences to nurture biodiversity

The long-awaited details of the post-Brexit farm subsidy plan have been released by the government.

Landowners in England will be rewarded for their environmental work as well as food production.

Environmental land management schemes (Elms) will pay farmers public money for actions such as managing crop pests without chemicals and working towards net zero.

The measures have been widely welcomed by agriculture and environmental groups.

According to the government, the money will enable farmers to produce food sustainably while protecting nature and improving the environment.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said that farmers are at the center of the economy, they produce food and are also the guardians of the land from which the food comes.

“These two roles go hand in hand and we are accelerating the expansion of our farming plans so that everyone can be financially supported while producing food more sustainably while protecting the planet,” he said.

Elms was designed to replace the European Union’s common agricultural policy (CAP) as the UK is no longer part of the EU. They represent the biggest shake-up in farm policy in the UK in 40 years.

Agricultural policy in the UK is a delegated responsibility and each country implements its own subsidy schemes.

In the UK, Elms will now consist of three payment plans:

The Sustainable Agriculture Incentive is being expanded to include maintenance payments for fences, pastures and land.

Rural Management Plus will reward farmers “for taking coordinated action, working with neighboring farms and landowners to support climate and nature goals.”

This includes natural flood management, peatland restoration and woodland rehabilitation.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said the detail was “incredibly helpful” and provided “some of the clarity we wanted.”

Martin Lines, head of the Green Farming Network, said it wasn’t perfect, but it was a “start”.

“However, individual actions alone will not achieve our climate and nature goals. The need to combine actions remains to avoid a piecemeal approach.

The UK is one of the world’s top consumers of nature – in the bottom 10% of countries – and Gareth Morgan, Head of Agricultural Policy at the Soil Association, said it’s “fucking the edges”.

“We welcome the government’s increased urgency to help farmers produce resilient and environmentally compatible food. But much more is needed to help them make transformative changes that will help us meet our climate and nature goals.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Mark Tufnell said many arable farmers would be encouraged to try new plans, but there were “little new” proposals for steppe or struggling hill farmers.

Payments under the CAP system were worth around £3.5 billion annually, and much of it depended on the land each farmer owned, which drew criticism from the wealthiest.

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