Everything you need to know about ELMs

Environment and climate
A farm landscape around Cantref, Brecon, Walesld

Defra has outlined more information on ELMs at the Oxford Farming Conference. Our expert team has summarised what you need to know.

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At the Oxford Farming conference Defra announced it will combine the SFI and CS offer from the summer of 2024. This will allow applicants to select appropriate actions from both schemes.

Actions will vary in length from three to five years. There will be a single online rolling application window for SFI and CS from this summer for agreements to start this autumn. There will be a change in approach to the CS Higher Tier agreements with applications moving online and Natural England’s support being targeted where their technical expertise is required. The full details of combined offer still need to be worked through, along with the action requirements before the scheme can go live for applications.

During 2024 the range of actions available will be expanded to more than 180 revenue actions. 

Around 50 new revenue actions are planned, including actions for agroforestry, boundaries (including stone walls), waterbodies (e.g. restoration of floodplains and rivers), four new precision farming actions, expanding the moorland offer, and an expanded access offer. There are plans to introduce new capital items. Details will be published soon. After 2025, the England Woodland Creation Offer will be integrated into the SFI/CS offer.

How SFI and CS will work together – single online service

Defra is aiming for a single integrated online service where farmers can select the combination of actions across the two schemes that work for them. Farmers apply for the right options, rather than worry about which scheme they are labelled.

There will be one version of the option, so there will not be different rules in SFI and CS.  There is parity of payment rates for the similar actions across the two schemes. Defra will not allow payment for the same action twice. There is work to be done to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The integrated approach should be introduced from this summer.

SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive)

The Sustainable Farming Incentive contains actions that most farmers can undertake across the whole farmed landscape. This includes reducing inorganic fertiliser and pesticide use, taking care of our soils and improving farmland biodiversity, water quality, air quality and carbon sequestration.

Defra has published guidance for the SFI offer and applications can be made online.

For more information on SFI, visit our guidance at: SFI — scheme guidance and information

Farmers have flexibility to choose the combination of actions that works for their farm. The SFI actions are less prescriptive (e.g. removal of dates for actions to be undertaken, wider eligibility, removal of area restrictions) and allow farmers to decide how to achieve the action’s aims.

In 2024, Defra intends to broaden out the SFI offer and add new actions. You should be able to apply for these from the summer of 2024 onwards.

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Countryside Stewardship

Countryside Stewardship pays for the right things in the right places and supporting local collaboration to make space for nature in the farmed landscape. This scheme will cover trees, peatland restoration, habitat creation and restoration and natural flood management.

CS Higher Tier and Mid Tier applications for agreements starting on 1 January 2024 have now closed.

For those with existing CS/ES/HLS revenue agreements, including those which start in 2024, the window to submit a revenue claim is now open as of 14 March.

To be paid for actions carried out in these agreements, you must submit a claim. The deadline to submit a claim without a reduction is 15 May; the final deadline to submit a claim with a reduction is 2 September.

In 2024, the CS application process will be combined with the SFI approach. CS will move to rolling application windows and start dates. Defra’s intention is that applications will open again this summer for agreements starting in the autumn. The detail around how this combined offer will work has still to be revealed. The NFU will engage with Defra to ensure it has simplified the whole approach.

Find out more by reading our guide to Countryside Stewardship: Information on Countryside Stewardship 2024

Premium payments

Premium payments are being introduced. These are to encourage uptake of action with the biggest environmental impact or combinations of actions that deliver benefits at scale.

In 2024, 21 priority actions will get premium payments. For example, £765 per hectare for nesting plots for lapwing, and £1,242 per hectare for connecting river and floodplain habitat.

The actions include lowland peat, moorland grazing, and agroforestry. Most of these premium payment actions are new. Going forward the NFU expects premium payments to be apply to more actions or combinations of actions.

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Capital Grants

Standalone Capital Grants are available with a rolling application window, meaning you can make applications at any time of year.

The Capital Grant 2024 offer provides standalone capital item agreements that deliver environment outcomes within four group; boundaries, trees and orchards, water quality, air quality, and natural flood management. There is no limit to the value of capital items in these groups. There are 70 options available.

Landscape Recovery

Landscape Recovery will pay landowners or managers who want to take a more radical and large-scale approach to producing environmental and climate outcomes through land use change and habitat and ecosystem restoration.

To date, there have been two calls for bids to develop landscape recovery projects. There will be a further round in 2024.

You can find out more by visiting: ELMs: Everything you need to know about the Landscape Recovery scheme | NFUonline

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Private funding

Defra aims to support private finance and is designing the ELM schemes, so they dovetail with private schemes and markets.

Currently private finance is allowed on SFI agreement land, subject to conditions.

Advice provision

Defra’s ambition is for many of ELMs actions to be easy to apply for, without the need for an adviser. Defra will pay for advisory support for certain actions, where needed.

Defra’s agencies will provide support, where this is most appropriate. Defra will expand support for the facilitation fund.

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This page was first published on 25 September 2023. It was updated on 14 March 2024.

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