The new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) must be flexible and have farming at its heart, the NFU said today, as the government consultation draws to a close.
The scheme is due to be rolled out in 2024, replacing the existing environmental schemes currently available under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Moving away from a system that pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed, the scheme will instead pay for ‘public goods’.
Farmers will be paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating habitats.
Responding to the consultation, the NFU said farmers 'expected more information' on what that scheme would look like, particularly with pilots expected to start next year.
"We urgently need Defra to provide further clarity," NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw said, adding that a 'smooth transition' to future farm support post-Brexit was also needed.
“Defra needs to outline what schemes will be available during the transition before ELMS is fully available."
He added that farming businesses across the country were 'dynamic' and the new ELMS should 'embrace' that.
"It must be simple, flexible and accessible to all farmers and farm types across the country, allowing farmers to choose what they want to deliver," Mr Bradshaw said.
He said payments should provide an incentive for farmers to take part: "Without viable farming businesses who will protect and enhance our countryside?"
“If ELMS is properly designed, it could offer the UK farming industry a golden opportunity to achieve net zero and become a global leader in climate friendly food and farming.
"The NFU will continue to work with Defra on the scheme’s development,” Mr Bradshaw said.