Defra has now published extensive details of the range of actions, payment rates and timings for the environment land management schemes (“ELMs”).  

Details of the range of actions and payment rates for these are available in the policy paper: Environmental Land Management (ELM) update: how government will pay for land-based environment and climate goods and services.

In brief overall summary, in terms of ELMs’ components:

  1. The Sustainable Farming Incentive (“SFI”), which pays for carrying out farming activities in a more environmentally sustainable way, will have six additional standards added this year (three more than planned), to build on the three existing standards to improve soil health and moorlands introduced in 2022.  The additional standards are:
  • nutrient management standard;
  • integrated pest management standard;
  • hedgerows standard;
  • arable and horticultural land standard;
  • improved grassland standard; and
  • low/no input grassland standard.
  1. Countryside Stewardship Plus will include what was originally planned for Local Nature Recovery, through an evolved version of the existing Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Countryside Stewardship (“CS”) pays for environmental work carried out alongside sustainable food production, from restoring wildlife habitats, to creating or managing woodlands, to mitigating flood risks.  Defra are encouraging applications for Countryside Stewardship in 2023 and 2024 as the best way to transition to the new schemes and have expanded the offers available.

Countryside Stewardship Plus will reward farmers for taking coordinated action, working with neighbouring farms and landowners to support climate and nature aims.  The enhanced version of the Countryside Stewardship scheme will see an additional 30 protective measures become available by the end of 2024, taking the total number of actions available to farmers to over 280.  Payment rates will vary depending on the action taken.

As the schemes evolve over the next 2 years, Defra intend to offer SFI and CS in a single, integrated service, so that a combination of actions from both schemes can be selected.

  1. Landscape Recovery focuses on landscape and ecosystem recovery through a smaller number of longer-term, larger-scale bespoke projects.  

Following on from the 22 projects chosen for the first round of the scheme last summer, applications will open for further rounds of Landscape Recovery in spring this year and in 2024.  

The second round will focus on net zero, protected sites and habitat creation. Defra aim for up to 25 landscape-scale projects creating and enhancing woodland, peatland, nature reserves and protected sites such as ancient woodlands, wetlands and salt marsh.

Defra's announcement claims there is "something for everyone".  We now have the details to work this out.