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Open letter issued in response to speculation about scrapping of ELMS farm subsidies

Posted 29 September

"“There is a balance to be struck between food security, maintaining a healthy rural economy and protecting the wider environment and countryside – but all should be considered as public goods and duly supported by the government"

Harper Adams University has issued an open letter responding to speculation that DEFRA is considering scrapping its Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), and replacing it with a Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)-style area payment.

Such a move “could impact negatively on both the environment and the potential for UK farmers to maximise food production,” said Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Lee and colleagues, who lead education and research across agriculture, food production and land and environmental management.

“Through refreshing the curriculum across all of our courses, and through our School of Sustainable Food and Farming which is upskilling the agri-food workforce, Harper Adams University is strongly committed to the principles of both.

“The UK Government is right to take food security seriously alongside wider aspects of carbon net-zero, biodiversity, natural capital and rural community justice (levelling-up).

“The Government in Wales is following a more coordinated action with agri-food stakeholders, with a delay to remove Basic Payment Schemes (BPS) which will be less disruptive to the sector and rural communities. Therefore, a reassessment of ELMS and how to phase out BPS is called for in England, rather than a knee-jerk return to a long-term application of the support systems of the past, which protected and rewarded land holding rather than sustainable farming innovation and adaptation.

“There is a balance to be struck between food security, maintaining a healthy rural economy and protecting the wider environment and countryside – but all should be considered as public goods and duly supported by the government in the form of payments to support the farming community to deliver – the obvious prize of replacing the CAP. We consider that this can be successfully implemented through wider adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, protecting natural capital and a continued transition to net zero production.

“The developing ELMS has its critics and it may not have had the immediate desired impact in supporting farmers to make the right interventions in optimising food production and protecting the environment, but a simple area payment, with no future plan for change in how to value and support natural capital and their ecosystem services, would deny the agricultural sector the opportunity to modernise, increase productivity and achieve its net-zero potential and we encourage Ministers to rethink before scrapping the development of ELMS completely,” they concluded.

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