The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has described Government proposals for a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) in England as disappointing.
TFA Farm Policy Adviser, Lynette Steel said, “The TFA supports the development of a new agri-environment scheme, within the ethos of making public payments in return for public goods. However, this must not be developed in isolation from work which will support agricultural resilience, productivity and future profitability. There is much about how the Government intends to address this wider landscape that we do not yet know”.
“The proposal for ELMS outlined by DEFRA is lacking in aspiration. It is also less comprehensive and innovative than previous discussions with DEFRA would have suggested. The new scheme must be outcome focused, targeting the farmed environment and sustainable food production. Farmers must be rewarded adequately for the value that they are providing in their production of public benefits, rather than simply being offered payments for their income foregone,” said Mrs Steel.
It is also essential that the scheme is relevant, not only to owner occupier farmers, but to tenants and others who do not own the land they farm. Only active farmers should be permitted to have access to the new scheme. Active farmers are defined as those in occupation of land, or with grazing rights on commons, taking the entrepreneurial risk for the farming activities on that land and in day-to-day management control.
“Many tenant farmers could be excluded from participating in the scheme, either due to the terms of their agreements, or their lack of security of tenure. The Agriculture Bill, currently in Parliament, goes some way to providing a mechanism to allow farm tenants to object to their landlord’s refusal to allow entry into ELMS. However, this does not extend to tenants occupying under Farm Business Tenancies governed by the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. This is a serious omission and needs correcting within the Bill at Report Stage in the House of Lords,” said Mrs Steel.
“There is considerable work ahead and we have concerns about the capacity of the Government machine to deliver ELMS within the timescales envisaged. Couple this with uncertainty around the wider policy environment, including our trading relationship outside the EU, it is a major worry we are still unable to understand fully how ELMS fits in. This is why the TFA and others have argued for a pause to allow for the development of a good rather than an inadequate scheme,” added Mrs Steel.