The Farming for the future policy and progress update and Environmental Land Management policy discussion documents published at the end of February provide an insight into the current thinking of what the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) will look like and sets out a timeline for change. Below we have set out some of the key points from the documents that should help to provide you with some more information about the changes that are coming.



“The ambition is to channel public money into the delivery of public goods – focusing on improving the health of our environment, on a far greater scale than achieved under the CAP (and at a lower cost).”

The intention is that ELMS will pay farmers foresters and other land managers for managing their land in ways that deliver key goals set out in the 25 Year Environmental Plan.


Lessons learned from previous schemes

Defra are building on important lessons that have been learned from delivery of previous schemes into the design of ELMS, some of these include:

  1. Targeting a high level of uptake in ELM – undersubscription results in uneven distribution of uptake and environmental outcome delivery.
  2. Objectives need to be clear to aid understanding
  3. Land managers must have access to effective advisory services
  4. Recognise positive actions and outcomes of land managers – current schemes penalise poor delivery but do not balance this with positive recognition.
  5. Balance delivering improvement with rewarding existing good practice – by limiting payments to the adoption of additional actions, existing high-quality features and habitats may be destroyed.
  6. Seek to create a layer of local prioritisation within ELM
  7. Ensure that ELM is not overly prescriptive
  8. Ensure compliance requirements and approach to enforcement within ELM are proportionate.
  9. The applicant needs to have confidence in the delivery process.


What will ELM look like

Defra has launched the ELMS tests & trials programmes in order to understand the issues faced by priority areas such as payments, advice and guidance, increasing collaboration, and considering innovative delivery mechanisms. Through this work and ongoing discussions, Defra have put forward their current proposals for ELM in the policy update:

A three-tier design would allow tailoring each tier to the needs of different groups of land managers and landscapes. The first could be focused on incentivising environmentally sustainable farming and forestry across the country. The second tier could be designed to deliver locally targeted environmental outcomes. The third tier would be focused on delivering landscape scale land-use change projects, in order to coordinate projects that are critical to ambitious environmental commitments such as the net zero target.

In addition, the aim is for there to be some comparatively simple options to choose from in the form of ‘packages’ of actions and outcomes, especially through tier 1, these might be tailored to farm or land type. Targeting and local planning will be critical in tiers 2 and 3 and would involve local people in the decision making for their area, this will be tested through the national pilot.


In addition to these tables, the ELM policy discussion document provides a high level visualisation of how a land manager might walk through the scheme.

The National pilot is likely to consist of two large pilots for tiers 1 and 2, and several smaller pilots for tier 3. It is likely to test the construction of different ELM agreements at different scales, targeting ELM incentives to deliver specific outcomes in specific areas, and underlying scheme mechanics (application, payments approach and use of advisers).


Implications for Farmers

New Countryside Stewardship (CS) agreements will continue to be available in the first few years of the agricultural transition period and no-one with a CS or Environmental Stewardship agreement will be unfairly disadvantaged when we transition to new arrangements under ELM.

Importantly, those entering CS agreements from 2021 will be able to end their agreement early where they have secured an ELM agreement.


Timeline for Change

The table below shows the proposed timeline for the next 8 years over which the policy changes will take effect.


We will be formulating a response to the ELM consultation and would be happy to feed in your thoughts on how this will affect you and your business into this. However, If you would like to do this yourself you can do so here: