Businesses, farmers and charities are calling for ‘decisive action’ on farm payments

Supermarkets, banks, farmers and environmental groups have called for greater ambition and “bold and decisive action” on new wildlife-friendly farm subsidies.

In a joint statement, organizations ranging from Tesco to WWF have warned that farmers and land managers urgently need “vision, clarity and detail” on the introduction of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

The Elms payments, which cover England, will replace the EU scheme for agriculture where subsidies were mostly based on the amount of land under cultivation, with a system that pays farmers for ‘public goods’ such as clean water , wildlife habitat, healthy soils and access to the countryside.

In addition to payments for sustainable agricultural practices such as soil stewardship, Elms is designed to pay for the creation of “local nature restoration” habitats on farms and “landscape restoration” projects to restore large-scale nature, including of restoring nature.

But a review of the scheme during Liz Truss’ brief premiership sparked concerns that it was watered down and the delays in submitting payments for elements of the scheme – even as cash under the old scheme has shrunk – has also worried farmers who have to face high fuel and fertilizer prices.

The declaration has been signed by Aldi, Lidl, M&S, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco, banks including NatWest and HSBC, rural and agricultural groups including the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the Nature Friendly Farming Network and the Earth Workers Alliance.

Other signatories include RSPCA, Red Tractor, organic certification body Soil Association, Arla Foods, Ocado and a number of conservation and green organizations including the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and RSPB.

The statement, coordinated by WWF-UK, said the organizations are “united in support” of Elms.

“We are calling for the ambition and delivery of all parts of Elms to be raised to support farmers to work with nature, reduce their input costs and adapt to a changing climate, all while providing healthy, affordable, high-quality food. high welfare and sustainable,” he says.

“Now is the time for bold and decisive action if we are to create a productive, regenerative and resilient food system in the future.”

He also said the organizations are ready to work together and unleash the potential of the private sector, “provided there is a strong and sure political signal from the government”.

The organizations warned that the UK’s legal commitments to tackling climate change and nature loss hinged on how the land was used to produce food, and improving the Elms program was ‘the greatest act of leadership and support ” that the government could give to the matter.

“Now is the time to move forward without delay, urges.”

Kate Norgrove, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF-UK, said: “Currently, the only action we are seeing on Elms is constant delays and name fiddling.

“Defra must overcome the upheavals and delays of recent months and deliver on its promise to farmers with the clarity, ambition and certainty they need.”

And as environment ministers met in Montreal to shape a new deal at the UN COP15 meeting to halt and reverse the decline of nature by 2030 to protect lives, health and economies, he said: ‘We urgently need world leaders commit to shift to nature-friendly and low-carbon agriculture.

“Not only will this help in our fight to restore nature and tackle climate change, but it will also make the agricultural sector more resilient and support food security.”

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment (Defra) said: “We have already opened two of our three new environmental land management programs and are moving forward by refining and expanding them to ensure they help deliver our ambitious environmental outcomes and support a thriving agri-food sector.

“Food production and the environment must go hand in hand.”

They said thousands of farmers have joined the Sustainable Agriculture Incentive (SFI), 22 large-scale nature restoration projects have been launched, and 32,000 countryside management agreements – which support environmental work – are expected to be in place. at the beginning of 2023, a 94% increase compared to 2020.

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