Government review of ELMS farming subsidies stokes anger

A major overhaul of farm subsidies was put in place, but the government has signaled their intent to review the overhaul.

Farmers and environmentalists are greatly worried about the government watering down the industrial reform, but some agricultural unions have threatened a delay.

What does the proposed ELMS mention to replace the EU’s common agricultural policy?

ELMS will replace the CAP program and help to shake up the English farming system.

Critics of the new plan argue that these grants will mainly benefit the wealthy.

A new subsidy for the ELMS system was cast into doubt after farmers and landowners met with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust, has made an unusually outspoken statement about the book review.

She said that instead of enforcing rules to support the environment, this government is moving in the opposite direction.

Farmers in Cambridgeshire say that without Environmental Levy Management Scheme, farmers would be unable to adapt to the climate change.

“If the government is stalling ELMS, it has failed in its duty of leadership to maintain momentum and build resilience,” he said.

ELMS includes three pricing schemes, each with a different goal. One program aids in sustainable farming; another aids in local nature recovery; and the last aids in landscape recovery.

In order to help the environment, farmers could create habitats for animals and improve water and soil health by accepting a range of government subsidies.

Many small farms who depend on pesticides for pest control feared that the new option would not be enough to keep them in business.

Batters, a NFU President, said that her organization wanted a delay to 2019’s Standard Scheme introduction.

The SFI needs more detail and to be profitable, the SFI should wait until there is enough information.

“The Natural Resources Defense Council has called for better policies on both of these fronts.”

NFU president Minette Batters

She also argued that the larger-scale rewilding projects should be paid for with private money, not public funds.

“We have got literally billions and billions of pounds in green finance that is looking to invest in wild environments. We should be making the private sector work effectively,” she said.

A report earlier this year by think tank the Green Alliance estimated that delaying ELMS by two years would reduce the savings in agricultural emissions delivered by 2035 by half.

News of the review triggered warnings from environmental groups.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said “If we revert to an agricultural system where people get given taxpayers’ money on the basis of how much land they own then one of the few potential benefits of Brexit will have been squandered. It will be unfair and unsustainable.”

Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of rural conservation charities, said: “Farmers should be paid more and paid well for ambitious action to deliver environmental recovery, alongside producing healthy food.”

He said any suggestion farmers be paid based on the amount of land they owned “would squander years of work and waste the opportunity to create a thriving agriculture sector that works in harmony with nature. Area-based payments are inefficient and inequitable”.

A Defra spokeswoman said that, while environmental land management remained important, the department was reviewing its plans “given the pressures on farmers, and the government’s aims of boosting food security and economic growth”.

She added: “In the light of the current global economic situation, we know that the cost of inputs has gone up, which might make it more difficult for farmers to both improve the natural environment and underpin food production, so we will continue our engagement with the sector to make sure the outcomes that the British people want to see are delivered.”

Agricultural policy in the UK is a devolved responsibility and each nation is implementing its own subsidy schemes.

Gregory Willis is an American columnist, journalist, editor, and author. Gregory worked in several positions in politics and government, including freelancing for publications like Benzinga and Seeking Alpha.

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