The direction of agricultural policy in England

The latest column from CLA East Director Cath Crowther
Cath Crowther - new enews.jpg

There have been a lot of rumours flying around in recent weeks on the future of the government’s Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes which caused heated views and much debate. Indeed, I have received a number of calls from our members from across the east of England who were seeking clarity over what was actually going on.

Defra has finally made it clear that they are not planning on scrapping ELM schemes but are looking to see where further improvements to their schemes can be made.

The CLA has long believed that the ELM schemes can show that you do not need to choose between feeding the nation and protecting the environment. We can and should do both.

For many years the CLA has highlighted how a system of ‘public money for public goods’ could not only benefit the environment and nature, but could also become a core income stream for landowners in an increasingly uncertain world, where public expenditure is coming under more and more scrutiny.

At the CLA we are working behind the scenes, both with Defra and Downing Street, to explore where ELM schemes can be improved. In doing so, we are pushing six key actions:

  • Fast-track the launch of new Sustainable Farming Incentive standards in early 2023 – we know from a recent survey that many farmers are waiting see how the scheme develops with more standards before applying.
  • Simplify the SFI standards to make the decision-making and applications easier.
  • Focus on Countryside Stewardship (CS) as the main agri-environment scheme until full details of the Local Nature Recovery scheme are available, and reiterate the guarantee that nobody will lose out from going into CS now.
  • Develop a programme to support natural capital baseline assessment and training to build knowledge, skills and motivation to get involved in environmental land management.
  • Publish plans for timing and themes for new rounds of productivity grants so that businesses can build into their business plans at the right time, and ensure that planning approvals and other licences are aligned.
  • Design new schemes to allow a more diverse range of businesses to innovate, adapt and invest, for example to allow smaller businesses with restricted access to finance capital to take part.

This work continues. As always, we will champion our members interests both on agricultural policy, and the success of the wider rural economy through our Rural Powerhouse campaign.