Rishi Sunak visits farms trialling post-Brexit ELM scheme

Rishi Sunak visited farms in his constituency in Yorkshire to see the process of environmental land management projects
Rishi Sunak visited farms in his constituency in Yorkshire to see the process of environmental land management projects

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has visited two Yorkshire farms to see the government's post-Brexit Environmental Land Management scheme in action.

Farmers in North Yorkshire are testing the scheme, which will replace the EU's CAP, to help shape any future approach to payments and public goods.

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

Moving away from the EU's system that pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed, the scheme will instead pay for ‘public goods’.

Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis and local MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, visited Richmond and Wensleydale to see two tests and trials in action.

Farmers in Wensleydale are looking at whether they can deliver better outcomes for the environment when given greater flexibility and autonomy to manage their land.

Elsewhere, land managers of the Barningham Estate Farmers Group are exploring ways to encourage farmers to work together to achieve environmental goals.

Defra said it was looking to work together with farmers to harness their ideas and gain their feedback by testing and trialling elements of the new scheme.

Mr Sunak said farming was 'vital' to the rural economy and communities: "From the Upper Dales to Great Ayton, through marts at Hawes, Leyburn and Northallerton, farming touches every part of my constituency.

“Visiting the Payment by Results pilot in Wensleydale gave me the chance to see first-hand that giving farmers freedom over how they manage their land, can lead to better environmental results.

“I am confident that the future of farming is a bright one and I will do everything I can to help our farmers capitalise on the great opportunities ahead.”

Ms Prentis and the Chancellor were able to meet with farmers in Wensleydale involved in a Payment by Results pilot, launched in 2016.

Two areas in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire and in Norfolk and Suffolk have taken part, looking at environmental objectives to match the needs of each area.

The 18 farmers participating in Wensleydale have freedom to choose how they manage their land to enhance the environment.

They have also benefitted from the advice and training sessions provided by Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Defra said the first major assessment of this pilot, published last year, demonstrated that the project was boosting local wildlife and motivating farmers to develop nature-friendly practices.

Ms Prentis and Mr Sunak also heard how farmers on the Barningham Estate are testing a new system for planning and delivering environmental management on land.

The farmers are using a variety of farming systems and a tapestry of important habitats, including blanket bog, wetlands and SSSI ancient woodland.

The trials come ahead of the Agriculture Bill returning to parliament next week, which sets out legislation to transform British farming by delivering the new ELM scheme.