Public Accounts Committee report highlights ELMs concerns

10 January 2022

Farm business
NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw leaning on a gate

A new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into Defra’s new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) should serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to the government and shows why the lack of detail for farmers is a real cause for concern.

This new report on ELM, the PAC said it was not convinced the department understands how its environmental and productivity ambitions will affect the food and farming sector over the next ten years.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy chair of the PAC, said: “We have known we were replacing the Common Agricultural Policy since 2016 and still we see no clear plans, objectives or communications with those at the sharp end – farmers – in this multi-billion pound, radical overhaul of the way land is used, and more crucially, food is produced in this country.

“Farmers, especially the next generation of farmers who we will depend on to achieve our combined food production and environmental goals, have been left in the dark and it is simply wrong that Defra’s own failures of business planning should knock on to undermine the certainty crucial to a critical national sector.”

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."

Very little detail

Mr Bradshaw continued: “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."

Limited options for upland farmers

“As the current ELMs schemes stand, we have considerable concerns that not all farmers will be able to get involved," said Mr Bradshaw. "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.

"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.”
NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw

"These farmers play a vital role in rural communities and maintaining the farmed landscape we all value."

Sustainable food production

We have 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," Mr Bradshaw stated. "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."

Public value

Mr Bradshaw concluded: “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.”

The ELM scheme will be launched in full in 2024 and though we have information on the three schemes available for sustainable farming, local nature recovery and landscape recovery, detail is not forthcoming. 

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