Land managers 'need support' to access new environmental schemes

CLA welcomes announcement about England’s future agricultural policy, but says focus needs to be on a smooth transition to new schemes and providing support to land managers

The Government has revealed more information about two new environmental land management schemes that will restore up to 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat by 2042.

The Local Nature Recovery scheme will pay farmers for locally-targeted actions which make space for nature in the farmed landscape and countryside, such as creating wildlife habitat, planting trees or restoring peat and wetland areas. The Landscape Recovery scheme will support more radical changes to land-use change and habitat restoration, such as establishing new nature reserves, restoring floodplains, or creating woodland and wetlands.

Together with the Sustainable Farming Incentive, these schemes are designed to provide farmers and landowners with a range of voluntary options from which they can choose the best for their business. More than 3,000 farmers are already testing the new schemes, and an early version of the Local Nature Recovery scheme will be trialled in 2023 with a full roll-out across the country from 2024.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Mark Tufnell said:

“Today’s announcement of two new schemes under the Environment Land Management (ELM) plan marks an important point in the future development of England’s agriculture policy.

“Both the Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes have the potential to be transformative and bring England closer towards the Government’s environmental goals.

“The schemes clearly indicate that the wants and needs of farmers and landowners have been heard by Government. But this is just the beginning of a highly ambitious and progressive plan. The real work now begins on delivering these schemes successfully. Most importantly, it is incumbent of Government to ensure greater detail is shared on how this transition to the new schemes will be carried out.

Land managers will need support to access these opportunities, and we must remember that individual businesses are at the heart of these changes.

"All are unique in terms of farm type, location, size, and management technique. Businesses more reliant on farming will be more at risk, and not all businesses have the same opportunities for ELM or diversification. Tailored advice that is accessible to all recipients is required to ensure that the transition does not have unintended consequences and result in viable operations going out of business.

“These schemes are by no means a silver bullet. The Government must also ensure that policy changes look towards domestic food production and security. Britain is already at the forefront of agricultural innovation and animal welfare standards, and we must do more to ensure our great produce is supported here and abroad. We need to ensure that profitable agriculture remains a core part of the rural economy, and feeds the nation sustainably.

“Landowners must be at the heart of green transition policy-making decisions. 2022 will be a crucial year, and the CLA will continue to work with Defra to ensure the ambition set out in this week’s announcement is deliverable by farmers and land managers on the ground.”

Applications will shortly open for the first wave of Landscape Recovery projects. Up to 15 projects will be selected in this first phase, focusing on two themes – recovering England’s threatened native species and restoring England’s rivers and streams. These pilot projects are expected to help with the creation of 10,000 hectares of restored wildlife habitat, deliver carbon savings of between 25 to 50 kilotonnes per year and improve the status of around half of the most threatened species in England, including the Euroasian curlew, sand lizard and water vole.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

“Through our new schemes, we are going to work with farmers and land managers to halt the decline in species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature.

“We are building these schemes together, and we are already working with over 3,000 farmers across the sector to test and trial our future approach. Farmers will be able to choose which scheme or combination of schemes works best for their business, and we will support them to do so.”

New environmental land management schemes