Businesses, farmers and charities call for ‘decisive action’ on farm payments

Supermarkets, banks, farmers and conservation groups have called for more ambition and “bold and decisive action” on new wildlife-friendly farm subsidies.

In a joint statement, organizations ranging from Tesco to WWF warned that farmers and land managers urgently needed “vision, clarity and detail” on the rollout of the new Environmental Land Management (Elms) scheme.

The Elms payments, which cover England, will replace the EU scheme for agriculture where subsidies were mainly based on the amount of land cultivated, with a system paying farmers for ‘public goods’ such as clean water, wildlife habitat, healthy soils and access to the countryside.

Along with payments for sustainable agricultural practices such as soil management, Elms is designed to pay for the creation of “local nature reclamation” habitats on farms and “landscape reclamation” projects to restore nature to scale, including rewilding programs.

But a review of the program during Liz Truss’ brief tenure has raised concerns that it will be watered down, and delays in unveiling payments for elements of the program – even as cash under the old regime has dwindled – have worried farmers also facing high fuel prices. and fertilizer.

The statement was signed by Aldi, Lidl, M&S, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco, banks such as NatWest and HSBC, rural and agricultural groups including the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the Nature Friendly Farming Network and the Land Workers Alliance.

Other signatories include the RSPCA, Red Tractor, organic certification body Soil Association, Arla Foods, Ocado and a range of conservation and green organizations including the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB.

The statement, coordinated by WWF-UK, said the organizations were “united in support” of Elms.

“We are calling for ambition and delivery from all parts of Elms to help farmers work with nature, reduce their input costs and adapt to climate change, while providing healthy food. , affordable, high wellness and sustainable,” it says.

“Now is the time to act boldly and decisively, if we are to create a productive, regenerative and resilient food system in the future.”

He also said the organizations were ready to work together and unlock the potential of the private sector, “as long as there is a strong and sure political signal from the government in place.”

The organizations warned that the UK’s legal commitments to tackle climate change and nature loss depended on how land was used to grow food, and improving the Elms scheme was “the biggest act of leadership and support” that the government could give to the issue.

“Now is the time to move forward without delay,” he urged.

Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF-UK, said: “Currently the only action we see on Elms is continued delays and name changes.

“Defra must emerge from the upheaval and delays of recent months and deliver on its promise to farmers with the clarity, ambition and certainty they need.”

And as environment ministers gathered in Montreal to hammer out a new deal at the UN’s COP15 meeting to halt and reverse nature’s decline by 2030 to protect lives, health and economies, she said: “We urgently need a commitment from world leaders to shift to nature-friendly, low-carbon agriculture.

“Not only will this help us in our fight to restore nature and fight climate change, but it will also make the agricultural sector more resilient and support food security.”

A Department for the Environment (Defra) spokesman said: “We have already opened two of our three new environmental land management programs and are moving forward in refining and expanding them to ensure that ‘they help achieve our ambitious environmental goals and support a thriving food and agriculture sector.

“Food production and the environment must go hand in hand.”

They said thousands of farmers had signed up for the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive (SFI), 22 large-scale nature recovery projects had started and there were expected to be 32,000 agreements for campaign stewardship – which supports environmental work – effective in early 2023, a 94% increase from 2020.

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