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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential for environmentally responsible farming to deliver (a) healthy soils, (b) long-term food security, (c) clean water and (d) a stable climate; and what support the Government is providing to farmers to deliver those outcomes.
The Government is committed to supporting farmers to deliver environmental outcomes. Our Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme is the cornerstone of our new agricultural policy. Founded on the principle of “public money for public goods”, the ELM scheme is intended to provide a powerful vehicle for achieving the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan and commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, while supporting our rural economy.
The ELM scheme is due to be in place from 2024. Farmers and other land managers may enter into agreements to be paid for delivering the following public goods:
Farmers and land managers will be able to decide for themselves how they deliver environmental benefits from their businesses and their land, and how they integrate this into their food, timber and other commercial activities.
Meanwhile, Countryside Stewardship (CS) provides a stepping stone to the future scheme, paying for environmental enhancements now as area-based payments are phased out.
CS supports Defra’s strategic objective of “a cleaner, healthier environment, benefitting people and the economy”. Through the scheme, farmers can apply for funding to improve their local environment – from restoring wildlife habitats and creating woodlands to managing flood risk.
We know that soil is an essential natural asset and that its careful management can lead to multiple public goods. Having soil specifically named in the Agriculture Bill will mean we can help farmers to protect soil and improve its quality. Soils and food security and production are being considered as part of the development of the ELM scheme. Both clean and plentiful water, and mitigation of and adaptation to climate change have been identified as two of the public goods that the ELM scheme will pay for. We are in the process of determining exactly what actions we will pay for under ELM.