• Amy Turner

Environmental Land Management Scheme - what are DEFRA's plans?

The Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme is DEFRA's completely fresh way of managing the UK's important landscape. It is the Governments' ambition to have ELM's fully operational by 2025 and in the meantime a series of trials will be used for its development, with the first pilot running in 2021.

With ELMs, Defra want to move in to a space where farmers see environmental delivery as a business option alongside farming production. That is, farmers can choose to produce grain or get paid to produce for the environment.

In Defra’s own words they have said:

• ‘Land managers will be contractors, paid for the services they provide to deliver environmental outcomes, in combination with their primary commercial business.

• Farmers will no longer be our ‘customers’ or dependent on subsidies based on quantity of land. • Farmers and land managers will earn money by providing environmental services and benefits that society relies upon, for which government will pay’.

Defra has said through ELMS they seek to achieve: Clean air, Clean and Plentiful water, Thriving plants and wildlife, Protection from and mitigation of hazards, Habitable climate, Beauty, heritage and engagement (including recreation).

A fundamental question to the success of a future scheme is how payments are calculated. The current Countryside Stewardship scheme has highlighted the flaws of an income forgone approach. Defra are exploring different ways of calculating payments. One of the principles behind the payment calculation work is that any new payment structure should be simple for land managers to understand and engage with, in terms of what payments will be received for which environmental outcomes.

What is the timeline for ELM's?

For 2019 and 2020:

 Countryside Stewardship (CS) and BPS continues with the current offer. There may be some changes to CS to improve delivery. HLS extensions should be available depending on negotiations with the EU Commission.

 ELM tests and trials will start in earnest in 2019, continuing until ELMs is fully operational.

From 2021:

 The CS offer is expected to reduce in line with ELMs offer. HLS extensions remain available.

 There is an expectation that ELM pilot will start this year. Verbally Defra have indicated they could expect as many as 5,000 to enter the pilot, although different lower figures have also been mentioned.

 ELM tests and trials continue.

 The BPS offer starts to reduce from 2021. The exact details of the change are still to be determined.

From 2025:

 ELM up and running.

 CS closed to applications and no further HLS extensions.

We will continue to stay up to date with any progress that DEFRA makes, if you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch using the Contact us page.