To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to support farmers and land-users using agroecological approaches to their land and operations.
18 May 2020
Nature-friendly farming is fundamental to our new approach to England’s agricultural system. We want to create new business opportunities alongside producing the great British food we all rely on, by paying farmers to adopt more environmentally sustainable farming practices and enhance our natural capital. 
Our Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will be the cornerstone of our new agricultural policy. Founded on the principle of “public money for public goods”, ELM 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.
Farmers and other land managers may enter into agreements to be paid for delivering the following public goods set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan:
- clean air;
- clean and plentiful water;
- thriving plants and wildlife;
- protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards;
- mitigation of and adaptation to climate change;
- beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment.
Where nature-based solutions contribute towards the delivery of these public goods, they may be funded by ELM. We will determine in more detail what ELM will pay for as we further develop the scheme and are engaging with stakeholders to inform this.
The ELM scheme is being designed collaboratively with stakeholders. We are considering how more environmentally-sustainable farming approaches, including organic farming and agro-ecological approaches, may fit within ELM where these contribute towards the delivery of environmental public goods.
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 will continue to offer CS agreements in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
However, because CS is insufficient in scale to deliver the ambitious goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan, it will eventually be replaced with the new ELM scheme.
Those signed up to CS who secure a place in the ELM pilot, or join the scheme when it is fully rolled out, will be able to leave their agreements at agreed exit points, without penalty. 
a) The merits of agro-ecology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
The Government is committed to taking action to mitigate climate change and to adapt to its impact. Defra is looking at ways to reduce agricultural emissions controlled directly within the farm boundary, considering a broad range of measures including improvements in on-farm efficiency.
One of the public goods incentivised by ELM will be mitigation and adaption to climate change. ELM is about giving farmers and land managers an income stream for the environmental public goods they provide. We are considering how more environmentally-sustainable farming approaches, including organic farming and agro-ecological approaches, may fit within ELM.
Additionally, agroforestry can play an important role in addressing some of the key issues of climate and land use change in England, through the ecosystem services it provides. Tree planting can provide significant carbon storage benefits.
b) The merits of agro-ecology to the UK’s food and farming industry:
Our new approach to the English agricultural system will create new income opportunities for farmers and land managers, by rewarding them for providing public goods and adopting more environmentally-sustainable farming practices.
We know that environmentally-friendly farming and food production can go hand in hand.
c) The merits of agro-ecology to support a healthy rural economy:
Our new 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.
We are committed to co-designing the ELM scheme with stakeholders to produce the best outcomes for both the environment and our farmers and managers.
As we continue to design ELM, we will assess the impact of our proposals on a wide range of things such as the environment, our rural economies, and on England’s ability to continue to produce food.