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The New Environmental Land Management Scheme

Fri 3 April 2020

The new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is due to replace direct payments and Countryside Stewardship. Once direct payments are phased out by 2028, ELMS will be the main source of alternative funding to BPS and Countryside Stewardship.

The core concept of ELMS is paying farmers and land managers “public money” to deliver environmental “public goods”. Whilst the focus of ELMS is on environmental outcomes, the Agriculture Bill states that when designing schemes, such as ELMS, DEFRA must consider “the need to encourage the production of food by producers in England, and its production by them in an environmentally sustainable way.”

McCartneys Partner Jenny Layton Mills says “the government must recognise that food production will not be sustained unless the payments are encouraging enough for farmers to take up the scheme. We have seen the limited uptake of Mid Tier whole farm schemes and this will be the same unless the options are relevant and encourage suitable environmental options. Therefore, the delivery of environmental “public goods” (or environmental benefits) under ELMS must be able to co-exist with sustainable agricultural production and may indeed enhance agricultural productivity through, for example, improved soil management”

With the removal of direct payments by 2028, a change in mind-set will be needed to recognise that the delivery of environmental “public goods” under ELMS is an essential part of the available toolbox. The main structure to come out so far is the three tier structure which is briefly outlined as follows:

ELMS – A Three Tier Structure

 Defra is proposing a three tier structure for ELMS:

  • Tier 1: Incentivising environmentally sustainable farming and forestry.
  • Tier 2: Locally targeted environmental out comes and collaboration.
  • Tier 3: Landscape scale land-use change.

What activities could Tier 1 pay for? The ELMS Policy Discussion Document indicates what action may be paid for under Tier 1, which include:-

  • Nutrient management (including manure management)
  • Pest management (such as Integrated Pest Management, biological control, and precision/spot spraying pesticide application):
  • Livestock management (such as improving feed efficiency of livestock through targeted breeding to reduce ammonia emissions, limiting grazing to avoid compaction and run off).
  • Soil management (such as avoiding cultivating/trafficking on wet soils. Soil organic matter content, maintaining water levels in peat soils, contour ploughing, minimum or no-tillage cultivation);
  • Field margins (such as flower-rich/species rich margins/field corners, riparian buffer strips);
  • Field cover (such as cover crops, arable rotations, companion cropping, leys);
  • Water storage/efficient water use.

What activities could Tier 2 pay for? DEFRA again gives examples in the ELMS Discussion Document of the types of actions which could be paid for under Tier 2, which include:-

  • Tree, shrub and/or hedge planting;
  • Habitat creation/ restoration/ management (including woodland, wetlands, freshwater. peatland, heathland, species-rich grassland, coastal habitat, urban green space);
  • Instream/ river and on-land interventions to mitigate flooding and to manage sediment for water quality;
  • Species management, for example, introduction, translocation and/or recovery and invasive species prevention/ control;
  • Rights of way, navigation and recreation infrastructure;
  • Education infrastructure, events and services;
  • Geodiversity asset (such as limestone pavements) and heritage asset management.

The types of projects under Tier 3 may include:-

  • Forest and woodland creation/ restoration/ improvement;
  • Peatland restoration
  • Creation/ restoration of coastal habits such as wetlands and salt marsh.

To deliver these the relevant natural capital assets will need to be present, managing eligibility for Tier 3 will be “product specific”, with entry requirements tailored for each project.


McCartneys will be advising clients on BPS, de-linked payment options, present stewardship schemes and ELMS so please contact one of our Rural Offices.


For more information on the above please contact Jenny Layton Mills, Knighton - 01547 528621
Pictured above is the rural team covering the Knighton and surrounding areas. From left to right - Lloyd Humphreys, Tom Carter, Glyn Owens, Jenny Layton Mills & Katies Davies 

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