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Future environmental support: Your questions answered

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More than 790 members registered for our inaugural NFU Live event which examined the uncharted waters of future environmental support. Missed it? Here we answer all the questions that were raised.

In the webinar, 'Unlocking the future of environmental support for your farm', held on 23 September, the NFU's Vice President Tom Bradshaw, head of policy services Dr Andrea Graham and senior countryside adviser Claire Robinson tackled the tough topic of ELMs and what the future of environmental support looks like post-Brexit.

During the virtual event, attendees were given an exclusive preview of the NFU’s ELMs White Paper. The paper sets out the NFU's vision for a Sustainable Food and Farming Scheme, an endeavour supported by other organisations including the CLA, RABDF, Commercial Farmers Group, NFYFC, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, LEAF, the Tenant Farmers Association and the Sustainable Food Trust.

Other topics covered during the session included ELMs Tests and Trials, the current timeline for transition and the role of the uplands.

Around 100 questions were put to our panel of speakers. Here you can read all the answers.

To help you navigate, we have collated the questions into topic areas.

The NFU's White Paper on ELMs

I like your proposals but how likely are they to be taken up by Defra?

We have had really encouraging feedback from Defra and we think they will pick some of it up, and we hope a lot of it. It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic and the food system issues that arose from that quite rightly rang alarm bells with government. It was clear we need a resilient food supply chain and there were serious questions raised in government on this. Sustainable food production is now being talked about – we want to match that ambition with what we can do for the environment. We’re hopeful that our proposals in our White Paper, supported by a cross section of organisations, will be picked up and we have already influenced Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentives.

You can read the NFU's White Paper on ELMs here.

Do you see the environmental delivery supported within your SFFS proposals being supported long term or its position as a 'public good' becoming eroded by new regulation, higher baseline requirements? 

Our focus is to establish a future support regime that recognises the importance of farming businesses that deliver for the environment while also producing food. Overarching all of this is an understanding of what our trade agreements will look like. While we recognise that regulations may change and evolve in the longer-term, the NFU is clear that we cannot  heighten our regulatory baseline and run the risk of being undermined by imports at lower standards than our own. It is imperative for the government to understand that the formation of domestic farming policy does not operate in isolation.  

There is nothing mentioned about the maintenance of habitats. With 25 plus years of environmental stewardship under our belts, habitats have moved from creation to maintenance. This must be recognised.

The White Paper proposals recognise the importance of maintenance of existing features and habitats throughout and not just their enhancement. We are seeking to secure reward for such existing delivery of public goods.

Would it not be more transparent to keep productivity and environmental interventions separate, following the Tinbergen rule, so they each can be made fit for their own purpose, with their business case standing and falling on its own merits?

The NFU believes that it's important not to view environmental delivery as totally separate from productive farming and so we are seeking to secure win wins in the measures that are rewarded. Ultimately only profitable thriving farming businesses can achieve true and meaningful environmental gains.

Haven't we missed the boat on this as Defra is now proposing the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme?

The Defra-proposed Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is only a concept at this stage. The White Paper is extremely well timed to influence the structure of the SFI and we are actively engaging with Defra on this.

Where are the other circa 10% of points to be allocated? [As shown on the diagrams in the presentation we saw]

The additional 10% of points are for the 'synergy multiplier'. In simple terms this offers the ability for the agreement holder to gain extra points for voluntarily selecting complementary groups of options which deliver added environmental benefits as a result. 

Will farm woodlands be part of either of these schemes?

The White Paper proposals for the SFFS has farm woodland management within it and we are making the case for its support in future schemes. 

The picture is complex with Test and Trials, pilots and the Sustainable Farming Incentive, do we believe the NFU White Paper provides enough clarity on all this and draws the threads into a concise scheme?

The picture is currently complex, with Tests and Trials and the pilots all part of Defra's approach to developing ELMs and more recently we have heard about Defra’s proposed Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). We understand the SFI is intended to bridge the gap between BPS and ELMs rollout by introducing elements of the final ELMs. However, we believe the proposals from the NFU and other


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