Written evidence submitted by Dr Louis Phipps (ELM0022)
The timeframe is certainly feasible, but whether it can be done effectively in that time is the real question. It is a very short time period in which to implement and evaluate the national pilots so that they can inform the full roll-out of ELM. However, if ELM is designed to be flexible then this should not be so much of an issue. The phasing out of direct payments is happening over a short period of time which will introduce a huge amount of pressure to many farmers, particularly those with fewer short-term options for diversifying or changing current systems. This could be mitigated if sufficient one-to-one advice is provided and heavily subsidised.
It is impossible to say whether it will be a viable support measure because we have very little idea about what it will involve, what the payments will cover and what the rates will be. As mentioned above, one-to-one, heavily subsidised advice throughout the process (i.e., from now on) would be very beneficial and would help a lot of farmers get on board with the new system. However, the structure and capacity for this should have been set up prior to the transition period starting.
Ineffectively. The lack of details about all aspects of the transition process and the new system is causing a lot of worry and uncertainty in the whole industry. It seems that the “usual suspects” are the ones that are the best-informed, or the ones selected for pilots. The biggest gains can be made by getting ordinary lowland farmers on board, but all the attention seems to be on large arable-dominated farms, or clusters of farms that are already doing great things for the environment. There should be more focus on “ordinary” farms – i.e. those of average size, tenant farmers etc etc. There is no point in testing the new scheme on farms / farmers that have already been well engaged in Countryside Stewardship or forward-thinking farming practices. They are the kind of people and businesses that will adapt well to the new system anyway.
By providing good one-to-one advice that is heavily subsidised and paying at rates that create a good incentive for farmers to engage fully and do a good job at implementing ELM measures and practices. The application, reporting and claim system should be made simple and easy to follow. Payments MUST be made on time otherwise there will be no trust at all in the system. Inspections should be flexible and sensitive to factors such as weather, financial pressures and even personal circumstances. Pragmatism and trust will be essential.
Provide and subsidise one-to-one advice about all aspects of ELM, including application, implementation, monitoring and record keeping and submitting claims.
Either provide clear protocols and templates for record keeping or be flexible and trustful that the work has been done as specified in the agreement.
Engage the huge number of ecologists in the UK to do some of the monitoring. Farmers should not be expected to do the job of an ecologist and the monitoring will not be effective if they are. Clear monitoring protocols should be written and ecologists (there are many graduate ecologists) should do the field work.
Payments must be made on time.
Agreements must be approved on time.
Inspections should be pragmatic and realistic.
Monitoring and record-keeping should be simple or implemented by trained personnel such as ecologists.
One-to-one advice would really help people to engage fully and go the extra step. FWAG should become the farm advisory service.
There must be more options for grass / livestock farms.
Options should not come with a long list of restrictions that may deter farmers from doing something rather than nothing.
The system should be designed for the “average” farm and below, not large farms in well-drained parts of the country, or groups of farms already doing great things. We need to get the majority of farms and farmers on board and doing something different, not great work by a few that in reality is not applicable for most farms.
The level of implementation should be reported annually to the public. For example, a summary of the total area of environmental options/measures created or maintained each year should be reported (e.g. lengths of hedges planted; areas of flower-rich margins created etc).