Survey highlights need to build farmers’ confidence in ELMS

20 November 2020

A survey has shown farmers and landowners have a strong interest in the environment and the need to tackle climate change - but they do have concerns over the lack of clarity on the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

The survey, carried out jointly by the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) and Strutt & Parker ahead of the first CLA Rural Powerhouse Week, offers an insight into how farmers and landowners feel about the shift away from Basic Payments to a new system of farm support based on the provision of ‘public goods’.

It found that 80% of respondents were concerned about losses in biodiversity and the same percentage agreed with the idea of paying land managers for producing public goods. More than half reported they were already taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 64% said a sense of personal responsibility would motivate them to make climate change a higher priority in terms of managing their land and property.

Four out of five respondents said they were either likely or very likely to join ELMS, or an equivalent scheme, when it becomes fully available in 2024.

Environmental measures, which farmers said they were likely or very likely to sign up to as part of ELMS, included supporting pollinators by increasing pollen and nectar sources (78%), providing seed habitats to support woodland birds over winter (73%) and tree planting to absorb carbon (57%).

However, there were lower levels of support for options such as growing energy crops (25%) or planting trees to slow flood waters (35%). Respondents also signalled that they did have concerns about how ELMS will operate.

The survey found:

  • 64% expect the change from direct payments to payment for public goods under ELMS to result in lower farm profitability
  • 76% said they were concerned the payments will be insufficient
  • 57% said they were concerned administration will be poor
  • 44% said they were concerned that ELMs will not deliver the prescribed environmental benefits

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:

“It’s very encouraging to see that mitigating climate change and reversing biodiversity decline is at the top of many farming businesses’ priority list. Also that farmers and landowners are keen to take part in the Government’s new ELMS scheme.

“The public can see the impact of biodiversity loss and climate change and understandably they expect us to act.  As stewards of the countryside, we are uniquely placed to deliver meaningful programmes that will drive environmental recovery, and we are determined to play our part in meeting the challenges ahead.

“These results do show, however, some trends that will concern government, whose optimism for the move towards ‘public money for public goods’ is clearly not shared by all farmers.  The CLA believes ELMS has the potential to be a world-leading land management policy, but there are clear risks associated with transitioning from the old system to the new. Ministers should consider these findings carefully.”

James Farrell, Head of Rural at Strutt & Parker, said:

“The government is committed to meeting a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 and its ability to reduce emissions from land use will be reliant on the actions of land managers. This is why it is so important to understand how farmers and landowners are feeling about changes in policy and what motivates them.

“It is really positive that farmers and landowners are increasingly focused on making a positive environmental impact, seeing it as a key part of their stewardship of a farm or estate.

“However, the survey also indicates that there is a lack of confidence within the sector about the implementation of ELMS and highlights there are some actions, particularly those which require permanent land use changes, where landowners may be less willing to get involved. We hope that Defra can address this as they refine their plans for ELMS over the coming months.”

  • Rural Powerhouse Week will run from 23-26 November.  For more information click here