Dozens of Exmoor farmers to trial government's ELM scheme

The scheme will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment
The scheme will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment

Dozens of farmers in Exmoor National Park will soon begin trials of the government's new approach to rewarding farmers for delivering public benefits.

It is one of around 50 Defra 'tests and trials' going on to help inform the development of the future Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM), due to be rolled out in 2024.

The scheme will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating habitats.

Moving away from a system that pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed, ELM will instead pay for ‘public goods’.

During a visit to Exmoor in 2018, former Defra Secretary Michael Gove toured two Exmoor farms and met with representatives from the Exmoor Hill Farming Network CIC (EHFN), Exmoor National Park Authority and consultancy firm Rural Focus, who co-designed the scheme.

Defra has since agreed to fund work on Exmoor to demonstrate the concept in practice, with the trial expected to run from this month until early next year.

Key objectives include a thorough on the ground test to catalogue the range of ‘public goods’ that each farm could potentially deliver.

This would be central to farmers being able to balance the books in terms of delivering environmental benefits alongside productivity and other strands of business.

Mapping the value of natural capital right across Exmoor to maximise the delivery of public goods and work towards a system of awarding payment for different environmental outcomes will also be primary activities.

Dave Knight, EHFN Chair of Directors, said the 'grassroots approach' Defra is trying to create will benefit Exmoor’s farmed landscape.

"It will better support farmers to deliver environmental benefit alongside traditional farming practices, allowing them to play an even greater part in the delivery of public goods in the National Park," he said.