The Environmental Land Management System (ELMS) is at the centre of the post CAP support arrangements for English farmers (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are developing their own systems). This is of huge significance to the farmer industry - and some farmers (including the writer of this comment piece in Farmers Weekly) are getting nervous. Most are concerned to see a simple system (or at least simpler than the current equivalents) and to understand how generous the public money will be for the public goods they will be signing up to deliver. For some these details will determine the survival of their business or not.
Defra is taking its time with an overlapping programme of so called Pioneers, testing and trials and pilot programmes (the first of which is due to start next year). Some will take comfort from the fact that Defra is attempting to evolve a sensible and workable system. On the other hand, one of the criticisms made by the National Audit Office last year was that Defra was developing its Future Farming and Countryside programme (which includes ELMS) too quickly and "...farmers will be unable to prepare in the way [Defra] needs".
What is certain is that the final system will not please everyone and perhaps the key test will be whether the policy delivers on its stated aims. The NAO will no doubt be watching.
ELM is the Schrödinger’s Cat of agricultural policies. When farmers lift the lid in 2024, it will be with a certain trepidation as to whether the post-CAP cat is alive or dead. The prognosis for agri-Tiddles is, however, unpromising from the scant details available.