Farmers will receive increased payments for protecting and enhancing nature and delivering sustainable food production under the Government’s Environmental Land Management schemes, Defra announced on 5 January 2023.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer announced more money for farmers and landowners through both the Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme. He also confirmed an expanded range of actions under the schemes, which farmers could be paid for, would be published soon.
The changes mean farmers could receive up to a further £1,000 per year for taking nature-friendly action through the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).
In addition, farmers with a Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreement, of which there are now 30,000 across England, will see an average increase of 10% to their revenue payment rates – covering ongoing activity such as habitat management. Defra is also updating capital payment rates, which cover one-off projects such as hedgerow creation, with an average increase of 48%.
Meanwhile, capital and annual maintenance payments for the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Tree Health Pilot (THP) will also be updated this year, helping to incentivise farmers to incorporate more trees as a valuable natural resource on farms.
Payment rates to support improving or upgrading outdoor, uncovered yard drainage have risen from £27.14 per square metre to £33.64.
See the Defra press release
Dorset CAN Briefing on the review of ELMS and the scrapping of various retained EU laws, which the RSPB has called "an unprecedented attack on nature and the laws that protect it".
Dorset CAN Briefing 27/9/2022: The UK Government’s deregulation plans
Defra: ELMS (Environmental Land Management Scheme) & Subsidies
Government to scrap EU nature protection legislation
Response to Government plans
Three major Conservation Groups have come out against the Government plans:
Dorset Wildlife Trust has secured National Nature Reserve status for its nature reserves at Kingcombe Meadows and Powerstock Common. The two adjoining areas are known for their remarkable natural habitats and wide range of species. The combined NNR, encompassing 309 hectares of grassland, woodland and scrub habitat, includes two Sites of Special Scientific Interest and recognises these as nationally and internationally important landscapes.
Kingcombe Meadows were bought by the Wildlife Trust in 1987, having previously been a working farm managed solely using traditional techniques. The meadows are still run as an organic farm, grazed by sheep and cattle and managed without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. So, the farm teems with wildlife – dormice in the hedgerows, linnets and yellowhammers singing in the trees, unimproved grassland peppered with wildflowers such is bee orchid, lady’s mantle, pepper saxifrage, and devil’s bit scabious.
Powerstock Common has long been managed by the Wildlife Trust, starting in 1964 by agreement with the Forestry Commission. Over the decades, the Trust has removed large plantations of mixed conifers, returning these areas to grassland and wood pasture. This has increased the biodiversity and provided a range of habitats, with ‘edges’ where woodland, scrub and scattered trees meet the open grassland. This is particularly important for foraging bats, while a network of ponds within the grassland and scrub supports amphibians, with toads, frogs and all three species of native newt breeding on site.
Designation as a National Nature Reserve will bring recognition and the increased likelihood of research within the reserve in order to advance understanding of particular species, habitats and natural processes. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the Kingcombe Centre, and there is free public access on foot and horseback to Powerstock Common.
Read more (Dorset Wildlife Trust)
[Images on this page from Dorset Wildlife Trust and Dorset AONB]
A passionate part of Dorset CAN’s vision for the future of Dorset is to have rivers and beaches clean enough to swim in. At the moment, many of the county’s rivers are fouled by run-off from farms, industrial effluent, poorly maintained septic tanks and even by emergency release of raw sewage by the water companies.
So we welcome the announcement by the government, on 2 August 2021, of a doubling of funds for the popular Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) programme, so that it can cover every farm in England. The programme – which is a partnership between Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency – provides free individual advice to farmers to help them reduce water and air pollution through management of farmyard manure, soils and other material. In recent years, this scheme reduced the number of serious water pollution incidents by almost a fifth, and helped farmers access £100m in grants to help protect the environment.
The funding for the programme will now be almost doubled, with an additional £17m over the next three years. The extra funding will provide 50 new Environment Agency inspectors and more Natural England advisers to help farmers implement practical solutions to reduce pollution, including planting new grassland buffer strips to improve drainage, establishing riverside trees to reduce run off into rivers and using better slurry storage facilities to avoid accidental spillage. Currently around 40% of farmers are involved in the scheme: with the extra funding, Defra aims to have every farmer in the country taking part by 2023.
A new study by the Met Office gives examples of how two of the UK’s most important farming sectors are likely to be impacted by climate change. The study examines the effect of climate change on the dairy and potato farming sectors over the next thirty to fifty years.
The research found that heat stress in dairy cattle is projected to increase significantly in key dairy regions of the UK, particularly South Western England.
The UK region with the largest herd of dairy cattle is the South West, where there are around 750,000 dairy cattle (according to the latest figures from Defra). The study shows that heat stress conditions are met around two-to-three days per year, but in the period 2051-2070, this could extend to around one month per year on average.
The study is based on a climate projection known as RCP 8.5: a high emissions future. The pathway is credible as mitigation efforts to achieve the more drastic [cuts in] greenhouse gas emissions representative of other pathways can’t be guaranteed. The report’s author said: “Given the potentially serious consequences for UK farming, we felt it was appropriate to work with a high impact scenario. Even under lower emission pathways, we know that our climate will continue to change so even if the impacts are smaller than identified in this study, our study provides useful information for adaptation planning.”
You can read the full paper here.