Written Evidence submitted by CSA Network (ELM0043)

The CSA Network UK is a membership organisation that brings together Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms to connect, exchange their skills and knowledge and promote a fairer, more transparent model of food production, where the risks and rewards are shared.

In the UK, the CSA Network represents around 150 farms and our vision is to see a CSA in every UK neighbourhood.


Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. Consumers, often described as CSA members, are closely linked to the farm and the production of their food, and provide support that goes beyond a straightforward marketplace exchange of money for goods. This involvement may be through ownership or investment in the farm or business, sharing the costs of production, accepting a share in the harvest or providing labour. CSA helps address increasing concerns about the lack of transparency, sustainability and resilience of our food system.


The most common produce for CSA farms is vegetables and fruit but they also include flowers, eggs, poultry, pork, lamb, beef and dairy, also firewood and fish. In the previous basic payment scheme, subsidies were not available to farms under five hectares, as CSAs and horticultural businesses tend to be smaller, they have received on average one of the smallest amounts of subsidy of any farm type and many have received none at all. We welcome the move to delivery of public goods based payments and hope that CSAs, small scale farmers and fruit and veg growers will receive more support.


We are responding for this reason and to ensure that all new farm support schemes including ELMS are designed to support small scale farms and community farms, to support whole farm agroecology approaches, facilitate farmer collaboration, support new entrants into farming, and are supported with adequate advice and training, and ensure no net loss of farm diversity as well as delivering environmental and other vital public and social benefits.


Terms of reference


2. 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?


        Small and medium and mixed farms provide specific and often unrecognised environmental and social benefits. Tailored support should be offered to ensure smaller farms make the most of the new policies, to develop sustainable businesses and deliver public goods.

        There must be enough funding available and publicly available free or low-cost advice and support for a farmer-to-farmer advisory network, visits to demonstration farms, and training to comply with the Sustainable Farming Incentive.


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


What is missing in the design of ELM and engagement is:

        Include a horticulture ELMs pilot starting in 2021.

        Include an organic pilot in the national ELMS pilot starting in 2021.

        Add an organic and agroforestry land management standard in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

        Provide a clear pathway in the SFI for farmers wanting to move into whole farm systems like organic and agroforestry.

        There is currently no commitment to fairly reward farmers already delivering for the environment.


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


        There should be no threshold below which land managers are ineligible to apply and so that those previously not included from incentives such as horticulture farms are included. Many small farms are able to deliver significant environmental and sustainability benefits, particularly if they are supported.

        Offer advice and fund delivery of affordable training, advisory services and farmer-to-farmer mentoring to provide a coherent joined up service for smaller farms to deliver public goods and to apply and work through the scheme.


        Support for new entrants - ensure the New Entrants Support scheme providing funding to access land, infrastructure and support, is applicable to small scale farmers, community and cooperative farmers and horticulture businesses which all tend to be smaller. Including start-up capital and small low interest loans.


        Farming investment fund - ensure this is beneficial and accessible for small and medium sized farms who need support to invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure to benefit sustainable farming and land management.

        Set a low threshold for capital grants and support for equipment.



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


        Recognise and fairly reward those already delivering higher environmental and animal welfare outcomes and social benefits through agroecological whole farm system approaches like organic, pasture-fed and agroforestry. Agroecological farms can create employment as well as public access to affordable fruit and vegetables, and community projects. Most CSAs already provide many of the public goods listed in ELMs even though they weren't eligible for previous basic payments.

        Remove the 5-hectare minimum agricultural land criteria/limit from all schemes and commit to design schemes to include small and medium scale and horticultural growers.

        Make payments work for farms under 5 hectares, including small low-interest loans and small grants. Fruit and vegetable production particularly production on under five hectares, has been underinvested compared to other farming sectors.

        Provide assurance that the Sustainable Farming Initiative, Local Nature Recovery component and third Landscape Recovery component of ELMs will be accessible for small-scale farmers too.

        Provide advice and facilitators for CSAs to access the Local Nature Recovery scheme and funds and set up collaborations between CSA farmers a part of the scheme.

        Ensure that public access to nature and farmland and better public engagement is featured in the ELMS outcomes.



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


ELMS must expand the scope of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to also be practical and accessible to:

        Small and medium scale farms including those below 5 ha

        peri-urban and urban farms- including those below 5 ha

        horticulture including orchards and protected cropping- including those below 5 ha small mixed farms- including those below 5 ha

        agroforestry- this will need long term contracts






February 2021