Everything you need to know about ELMs

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

Following the publication of the government’s Environmental Land Management schemes offer, the NFU’s expert team has put together a guide on everything you need to know.

Latest news

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.

SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive)

The SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) will pay farmers to adopt and maintain sustainable farming practices that can protect and enhance the natural environment alongside food production, and also support farm productivity (including by improving animal health and welfare, optimising the use of inputs and making better use of natural resources).

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 provides financial incentives for farmers to look after and improve the environment.

Defra will combine the SFI and CS offer with a rolling application window due to open in July.

Capital Grant applications and claims remain open all year. For existing CS revenue agreements (Mid Tier and Higher tier) the claim deadline (without reductions) closed on 15 May.

We understand that some members experienced system issues when trying to submit their CS claim online or for ES, did not receive a claims form in time. If a claim wasn’t submitted prior to the 15 May deadline, it’s important to submit a claim as soon as possible; the reductions increase the closer the claim is submitted to the final deadline (2 September).

If a claim submission has been delayed by RPA issues, then the agreement holder could have grounds to appeal any reductions to their claim if it resulted in a late claim submission. It’s important to keep a record and evidence of the delay such as a screen shot of the system and evidence of contacting the RPA prior to the deadline. 

Before submitting a claim, it is important to check that the land use codes recorded for the land parcels are correct and consistent with the claim.

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

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.

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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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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.

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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.

Find out more at: Environmental markets – are they right for you?

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This page was first published on 25 September 2023. It was updated on 20 May 2024.

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