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MPs say government must provide clarity on farm subsidies

25 November 2022

The Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has urged the government to publish much more information about a new farm subsidy scheme and to increase the payments to be made to farmers under the scheme.

The call came in a letter from the Chair, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, to the Minister for Food, Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, about the introduction of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). ELMS is replacing EU farm subsidies based on the amount of land farmed - the “Basic Payments” system - with payment for the provision of “public goods”, such as hedgerows that encourage biodiversity, which support the government’s environmental and climate change objectives.  

Sir Robert said there was uncertainty about ELMS because of a lack of detail given by the government on how the scheme would be shaped, the criteria for payments and the level of payments to be made. Since farming and land management are long term industries, Sir Robert stressed, this made planning for the future extremely challenging. 

The Chair said his committee welcomed a commitment from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to publish further details on the ELMS scheme in December 2022. He strongly recommended that the government include substantive detail about the Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI), the part of the scheme that farmers are most likely to join.

The EFRA Chair also said the government would need to increase the payment rates for all SFI standards if it wants to reach its target of having 70% of farmers, working 70% of farmland, in agri-environmental schemes by 2028. The letter to the Minister for Food also set out several changes to the ELMS that would be necessary to ensure that tenant farmers have better access to the payment schemes.  

Sir Robert’s letter also raised the need to support farmers and land managers, beyond ELMS, because of the crisis caused by price rises for inputs such as energy, feed and fertiliser.   

Chair's comments

Sir Robert Goodwill said: 

“If ELMS is well managed and the payment rates are increased it would be a step forward, but this will only happen if farmers are given certainty over the future of farm funding.  

However, these new schemes can’t do everything. The government also needs to set out what support it’s going to provide above and beyond ELMS to help farmers cope with a crisis in rising costs.  

This is urgent. Farmers are facing inflation of between 20 and 35% on the essentials they need to produce food and look after our land.” 

Further information

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