New payment plans for farmers provide clarity over government sustainability incentives

Farmers in England will be able to claim funding for actions that protect the environment under the Government’s long-awaited post-Brexit replacement for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.


It’s out with the old and almost in with the new, as the Government has, after a five year wait, unveiled its overhaul of farming subsidies.

New Environment Land Management Schemes (Elms) replace the previous EU range of subsidies available through the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap).

While Cap mainly rewarded farmers simply by acreage farmed, the new regime comes with a range of government funding for 280 possible actions that protect the environment, via a new Sustainable Farming Incentive.

Payable actions include managing hedgerows to encourage wildlife, growing nectar-rich wildflowers and managing crop pests without the use of insecticides.

“These measures are long awaited and will be pored over in detail by farmers as they try to get a measure of how they may benefit, and what the effect on income will be compared to the previous scheme,” says Russell Reeves, Partner in the Agriculture team at Thrings.

“The Sustainable Farming Incentive replaces a previous regime which was rather a blunt instrument with a more nuanced and detailed programme.

“The Government has promised that the application and payment process will be ‘as straightforward as possible’, but we will reserve judgment on that until it is in full operation as the last thing busy farmers and rural landowners need is more red tape.

“However, these announcements bring much-needed clarity and underline the focus on the responsibilities and opportunities farmers have in regard to sustainability. We will continue to support rural families and businesses to help them maximise their income from as many revenue schemes as possible, including Government support.”

In England, Elms is made up of three payment schemes:

  • The Sustainable Farming Incentive focuses on soil health and reducing the use of "inputs" such as fertilisers and insecticides
  • The Landscape Recovery Scheme will pay landowners for ambitious large-scale "rewilding" projects
  • The Countryside Stewardship Plus scheme will reward farmers for action to support climate change adaptation and help nature 

David Exwood, National Farmers Union (NFU) Vice President, has welcomed the detail as ‘incredibly useful’ information that provides ‘some of the clarity we have been asking for’.

Applications for some of the payments will open in February, others will follow in March, and the remainder will be rolled out by the end of 2024.

The  Thrings Agriculture team  has been chosen by the NFU to act for its members in more counties than any other firm. Find out more about how we can support farmers, food producers and rural communities on our  Information for Farmers  page. 

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