Scheme Development Bulletin Agri-environment in 2014 and beyond

Defra has unveiled more details of the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) to start in 2016. Resources will be "constrained". Currently, 70% of England's farmland is covered by agri-environment schemes, this is likely to fall to 35-40 per cent of the agricultural area.

The Federation has been working hard with the Foundation for Common Land to make sure that lessons learnt from implementing previous agri-environment schemes on commons are taken on board in the development of NELMS. It has been a frustrating process so far. It seems that ease of administration and auditability take precedence over whether it is possible to deliver the scheme on the ground. But we intend to continue challenging Defra and NE to the end to get something that works on commons.

Defra's overall priority for NELMS is to promote biodiversity. It will also cover soil and water issues, the historic environment. landscape, genetic conservation and educational access, plus measures to address climate change such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage.

The main changes in the new scheme:

The main changes from Environmental Stewardship are summarised below:

  •  An “upper tier” like HLS with similar application processes;
  • A “mid-tier” which will be targeted to areas of particular environmental priority; within these areas the choice of management options will be limited to those which deliver these priorities, with greater opportunities for coordination between clusters or groups of farmers to secure landscape scale changes;
  • Small scale capital only grants, not linked to a multi-year agreement;
  • Automatic acceptance to an entry level strand will no longer be available;
  • A single national menu of options with standard payment rates, including woodland grant options (see article below);
  • A single agreement per holding;
  • Five year agreements as the norm (but with ten year or longer agreements where this is required to deliver the environmental benefits);
  • Different levels of advice and support depending on the type of application/agreement;
  • Multi-objective, but more targeted with outcomes more clearly prioritised (including local refinement) and more directed choices of options;
  • Emphasis on securing options that deliver the greatest environmental benefit;
  • Common CAP IT system used by all schemes, online mapping and application process;
  • To be launched in 2015, with the first agreements starting on 1 January 2016 and universal small scale capital-only grants also available.
  • Unified start and end dates (based on the calendar year) for multi-annual agreements

For more details see the Scheme Development Bulletin