Written evidence submitted by Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming (ELM0025)


Sustain is the UK alliance for better food and farming and a registered charity. We represent over 100 not-for-profit national organisations and work with hundreds more at local level. We advocate food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.

We welcome the opportunity to respond to the EFRA Committee inquiry on the Environmental Land Management and agricultural transition plan. Our primary reason for writing this submission is that there is still a significant lack of detail on the support mechanism available to farmers. A summary of Sustain’s recommended actions are detailed here and our primary concerns are:

  1. The lack of detail on the agricultural transition schemes and Environmental Land Management (ELM) are hindering farmers’ abilities to plan ahead with enough certainty.


  1. That the initial 4-year direct payment reductions are swift in the grand scheme of the wider shift to a new farming policy direction and that a high percentage of farms need a safety net support mechanism to make necessary changes to adapt over a slightly longer timeframe – this also links to the above issue of farmers not being able to plan with enough certainty.


  1. The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is lacking in ambition to reward and encourage farmers to progress towards higher standards of farming (such as organic, pasture-fed and agroforestry whole farm systems).


  1. The lack of information on payment methodology and rates, and that the direction of income foregone plus costs announced by Defra in November will not be adequate to incentivise public goods outcomes.


  1. That entry level requirements might have one of two effects: 1) not attract enough farmers into ELM; or 2) discourage farmers to progress up to the higher standards within the SFI and ELM.


  1. That free at the point of delivery environmental advice is not being considered for the SFI and that this may hinder farmers in delivering public goods.

Q1: is the Government’s timeframe for the national pilot, full roll-out of ELM and phasing out direct payments by 2027 feasible?





Q2: Will the Sustainable Farming Incentive be a viable support measure for farmers before the full roll-out of ELM? Is further support required during the transition period?



Q3: How effectively has Defra engaged with land managers and other stakeholders on the design of ELM, including on the transitional arrangements?



Q4: How can ELM be made an attractive business choice for farmers and land managers while effectively delivering its policy goals?



Q5: How can the Government ensure that ELM agreements achieve their intended environmental outcomes, reduce bureaucratic burdens on farmers and deliver value for money?








Q6: What lessons should be learned from the successes and failures of previous schemes paying for environmental outcomes?



January 2021