Ten industry organisations have set out their views on the future of farm support as direct payments are abolished over the coming years.
The NFU and other farming groups have joined forces to warn that the government’s forthcoming environmental land management scheme (ELMs) must deliver a fair deal for growers and livestock producers.
ELMs will be phased in as direct payments are phased out over the next seven years. But details of how the scheme will work remain scant – even though the first reduction in direct payments is due at the end of 2021.
The coalition of industry groups (see box, below left) says a Sustainable Food and Farming Scheme should form the cornerstone of the government’s ELMs programme. Crucially, it would be aimed primarily at active farmers.
The proposals say the new scheme should command the interest of the vast majority of farmers and land managers – with each farm agreement driven by the aspiration and capability of each individual business.
A joint statement from the coalition says farmers are passionate about their dual role as food producers and custodians of the countryside – and want to be known for the standards of their environmental, land and livestock management.
“This proposal sets out key elements of what we think a successful public benefit scheme should look like,” says the statement. “It’s important as ELMs will be a key part of the new agricultural policy.
The coalition says the new scheme should harness the potential of British farmers to produce food while caring for the environment, wildlife, land and animals. Participating farmers would be able to choose from different scheme tiers.
“Fundamentally, we do not want farmers or land managers to face the dilemma of producing food or conserving their land. Our shared goal is that farming should be to grow food, fibre and energy, while delivering more for the environment and biodiversity.
“That is why our Sustainable Food and Farming Scheme outlines how farming can be both competitive and environmentally responsible, incentivising actions that grow productivity with less environmental impact. It is, in a word, sustainable.
“We all truly want to work with government to make sure our future agricultural policy can deliver for the British public for decades to come. We already have fantastic standards, from our environmental delivery to our animal welfare, but we are eager to do more.”
The government is expected to publish details of its ELMs scheme later this month. Defra secretary George Eustice said he would set out the way the scheme will work – and how farmers will be able to participate.