Farmers and interested parties throughout England will have the chance to share their views on the future of Environmental Land Management (ELM) by taking part in one of six upcoming online webinars.
As one of the cornerstones of the UK’s Agriculture Bill, ELM represents a transition from the Basic Payment System (BPS) to payments for land management in England.
Direct payments will be phased out over seven years between now and 2027, to be replaced by a ‘public money for public goods’ approach.
Discussion launched by Environment Secretary George Eustice earlier this year at the NFU conference was paused due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, Defra wants to resume that conversation. Six webinars have been set up to ensure that farmers and others in isolation continue to have the opportunity to share their views and shape the future policy.
There is a proposed design of three ‘tiers’ of entry, which will enable all farmers and land managers to participate in the new scheme at the right level, and people are being asked to have their say on this design.
While farmers are encouraged to sign up to and attend a webinar if they can, a policy document at https://consult.defra.gov.uk provides those who can’t attend with the opportunity to respond to the new policy ideas.
Their views, experiences and advice will help to ensure the new scheme is co-designed with farmers across the country and does not repeat the mistakes of the past, says the Government.
Cornwall’s NFU chairman Jon Perry is encouraging all farmers to participate in the discussion on ELM, either by signing up to one of the webinars or by responding to the proposals online, or by post.
Mr Perry did not want to pre-empt the debate which would be taking place over the coming month, and he welcomes the chance for every individual farmer to get involved.
But he does have one main concern: he wants to be sure that food production is kept at the centre of Britain’s agricultural policy.
‘There is going to be change in the way we get paid, I think everyone is clear on that,’ he said.
‘A lot of us do stewardship stuff and we know that it can work side by side. Public money for public goods is great. But we musn’t forget food production is our primary occupation.’
Mr Perry would also like Defra to push back the introduction of ELM to give more of a safety net for those who will be most affected by the changes. He said: ‘In years four-six we see what we’re calling a Hungry Gap, where the Basic Payment System funding will be dropped, but ELM won’t have fully come in.
‘I’d like to see a delay in the reduction of BPS for 12 months, to take the risk out of it a little bit.’
Farmers and landowners wishing to sign up to one of the upcoming webinars should visit https://consult.defra.gov.uk/elm/
elmpolicyconsultation/ and this is also where documents can be viewed online and comments made.
Those interested in attending any of the webinar events can sign up via Eventbrite. The available dates are:
Tuesday, 7 July – 6.00-7.30 pm
Thursday, 16 July – 8.30-10.00 am
Thursday, 23 July – 12.00-1.30 pm
Tuesday, 28 July – 8.30-10.00 am
Thursday, 30 July - 6.00-7.30 pm
Farmers looking to get involved in the webinars should also follow Defra on Facebook, as all followers will be notified of the links to sign up to webinars within the events on our page.
The deadline to share views on the document setting out policy ideas for the new scheme is 31 July 2020.