Yesterday, Defra set out the next steps in its development of the new ELMs schemes and Stewardship.  We are still trying to understand all these changes, but a summary is below:

  • Accelerated roll-out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive

SFI 2023 will include 6 Standards, three of which were not expected until 2024. The Standards being rolled out in 2023 are for:

  • hedgerows
  • integrated pest management
  • nutrient management
  • arable and horticultural land
  • improved grassland
  • low input grassland

These 6 new SFI 2023 Standards are in addition to the 3 Standards already available for Improved Grassland Soils, Arable & Horticultural Soils and the basic level of the Moorland Standard.  Farmers will apparently be able to choose “the combination of actions that works for their farm”.  The full document includes the actions required and payment rates although the rates for Low Input Grassland are indicative at this stage.  This is an interesting development as these indicative rates are the same as in Stewardship, but the suggested prescriptions are less stringent, eg with supplementary feeding allowed providing land is not poached.  We don’t yet know when the application period will open for the new SFI 2023 standards.  As with the existing SFI scheme, agreements will be for 3 years with payments made quarterly.  There is an annual SFI management payment of £20/ha for the first 50ha in the agreement.

  • CS (Countryside Stewardship) Plus

What was previously going to be called “Local Nature Recovery”, will now be “CS Plus”, which, by the end of 2024, will provide around 30 new actions/options in addition to the 250 options currently on offer through the existing Stewardship schemes. As the scheme evolves, Defra also plans to incentivise those who work together across multiple holdings to deliver environmental outcomes and connect habitats across a wider area.  CS Plus is intended to enhance, rather than replace, the existing Countryside Stewardship schemes.  Payment rates and actions for some of the new options are provided with more information expected later this year.

  • Landscape Recovery

This is the 3rd and “highest” level of the new ELM schemes.  Defra has confirmed that there will be a further application round for pilot projects in 2023.

Advisers as well as farmers are trying to understand the implications of all these changes and you can read the full document (of over 100 pages) HERE.  The document includes payment rates for the new SFI 2023 standards and the actions required.  A little bit of bedtime reading for the weekend!