Three things organic farmers need to know about ELMs

09 March 2021


The Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) will be developed over the coming years with pilots and trials to take place prior to the full-scale roll out in 2024.

It is not yet clear how organic production will fit in to this scheme but the NFU has been lobbying Defra to ensure organic farming is not forgotten in its design.

Here are the things you need to know:

  1. The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) will be phased out.
  • Direct payments will be phased out over the period 2021 to 2027. They will initially be available in the form of BPS, which will operate between 2021 and 2023, and then replaced by delinked direct payments which will be in existence until 2027.
  • The final round of applications for new Countryside Stewardship agreements will be in 2023, with agreements beginning on the 1 January 2024.
  • Currently an organic payment can be applied for under the mid-tier CS agreements, and previous to that under Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).
  • Defra has outlined that both HLS and CS extensions will be available throughout the transition period for eligible agreements. Organic agreements are ineligible for HLS extensions (see eligibility here) but are eligible for CS extensions. Extensions are currently for one year.
  • From 2024, legacy CS agreements will be able to continue to run to the end of their agreement term. Any agreements set up with 2021 start dates will benefit from early opt out to ELMs, should the agreement holder secure a place.
  1. Defra’s future Environment Land Management scheme (ELMs) is due to start in 2024

Defra is looking at new ways to support agriculture and is developing new schemes that will pay farmers to improve the environment, improve animal health and welfare and reduce carbon emissions. Defra’s ELM scheme is the cornerstone of the new agricultural policy and it will be made up of three elements:

  • Landscape Recovery – larger scale, long-term projects.
  • Local Nature Recovery – to improve the local environment and encourage collaboration
  • Sustainable Farming Incentive – available to all farmers
  1. The NFU is urgently seeking clarity on how organic farming fits in to the Sustainable Farming Incentive.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will pay for actions farmers and landowners take to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way.

The scheme will help achieve important environmental outcomes across the whole countryside, but it’s not yet clear how farming systems, including organic production, delivering on many of these goals will be recognised for the work already being achieved. The Sustainable Farming Incentive will focus on:

  • the protection of heritage assets.
  • wildlife and biodiversity
  • efficient water use
  • integrated pest management
  • soil management; nutrient management
  • boundary and hedgerow management
  • tree and woodland management
  • livestock management
  • grassland management
  • cropland management

Organic farmers needed to join pilot schemes

The ELMs scheme is being developed through co-design. Defra is using national pilots to guide them on the relevance, achievability, and practicality of the scheme.

We need to ensure this works for organic farmers, so it is essential to have good uptake of organic farmers in these national pilots. Defra will start to pilot the Sustainable Farming Incentive this year, with an initial group of several hundred farmers. Defra should be seeking Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot Expressions of Interest in March 2021, with the aim of agreements going live in October 2021.

There will be future opportunities to engage in the pilot. We will keep you updated as to when these expressions of interest are open.

ELM Sustainable Farming Incentive: What we know so far


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