NFU responds to Public Accounts Committee ELMs concerns

09 January 2022

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw on farm

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw

A new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)1 into Defra’s new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) echoes farmers’ concerns and should serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to the government about the scheme’s readiness.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “Farmers in England are extremely concerned about the development of ELMs and this report from the PAC should serve as a wake-up call to the government.

“Despite recent announcements from Defra on new schemes being introduced, there remains very little detail available for farmers, meaning they are unable to make informed decisions which will impact their businesses for years to come. This lack of information, at the exact time direct payments from current support schemes are being phased out, leaves farmers in an untenable position.

“As the current ELMs schemes stand, we have considerable concerns that not all farmers will be able to get involved. There are incredibly limited options for upland farmers, who stand to lose far more support than they will gain from new measures announced so far, and it’s not clear how accessible it will be for tenant farmers, who are responsible for managing over a third of the land. These farmers play a vital role in rural communities and maintaining the farmed landscape we all value.

“The NFU has always maintained that enhanced environmental delivery must go hand-in-hand with sustainable food production. Government has still not made clear how food production fits in with its proposed new schemes. This must be addressed now, if they expect farmers to join. The irony is otherwise, as the PAC highlights, we could simply end up increasing imports of food produced to lower environmental standards.

“It’s crucial Defra carries out and publishes the results of impact assessments to understand the true impact of the proposed changes, something we have repeatedly asked for but has not been forthcoming.

“We know that the public hugely value the high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and climate ambition that farmers work to. Our vision for future policy is to support this sustainable food production alongside environmental delivery and ensure it thrives well into the future. We urge government to engage with the NFU and farmers from across all sectors to make this a reality.”

Notes to editor:

  1. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said that:
    1. Defra’s plan for post-EU land and farming subsidies is based on ‘blind optimism’.
    2. Defra has given no detail about how either productivity increases or environmental benefits will be brought about, nor how these will offset the new ‘dramatic effect’ of ELMs on English farmers.
    3. ELMs appears to be ‘beset with many of the same issues that have undermined ambitious Government programmes in recent years’
    4. The lack of information from Defra is causing ‘anxiety in the sector’
    5. Defra has not explained how ELMs changes in land use ‘will not simply result in more food being imported, with the environmental impacts of food production being ‘exported’ to countries with lower environmental standards’.