What do you want from future ELMS – arable farmers opinions wanted

lcollas

New Member
We are looking for arable farmers to complete a survey online about what you want from future agri-environment schemes. We are looking at how carbon sequestration and biodiversity are provided on farmland, and want to know what options you would prefer to implement to this end. We’ll use this to make policy recommendations to the government of the most acceptable, and cost effective, ways of providing carbon sequestration and biodiversity. We’re interested specifically in the appeal of taking larger areas of land out of production and farming how you want elsewhere vs implementing actions that change practices on farmed land in some way. Some of these practices only apply to arable land – hence not opening it up to all farm types. You can skip any questions you dont want to answer - it will make you enter a postcode but partial postcodes are fine.

You can access the survey here https://cambridge.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_57w7CIWNYOmdQYR

Please get in touch if you have any questions (lc591@cam.ac.uk).

Lydia Collas
University of Cambridge
 

Goweresque

Member
Location
North Wilts
There is one thing above all others that those devising these schemes must address - namely that whatever a landowner signs up to must be reversible at the end of the scheme. That is to say no landowner is going to sign up to long term schemes of whatever nature if there is any possibility, however remote, that at the end of it he will be unable to return to farming it in the way he was prior to entry.

Tied into this is the risk of political change - these sort of schemes will be long term ones, maybe several decades. That is eons in political time, and anyone signing such a contract is open to huge amounts of risk that the political wind will change. Contracts would need to be 100% binding on the State in its entirety, not just the body (such as the RPA or Defra) who is the countersignature. Its no good a landowner signing with one part of government, only for another part to change their rules afterwards.

For example a contract with Defra might say that the landowner had the right to return his land to agriculture at its end. Then Natural England come along halfway through and say 'We've changed our rules on what qualifies as an SSSI, your land now can't be reverted to agriculture' and the farmer is left in limbo, having to fight some interminable legal battle to get his contract upheld.

Its not the specifics of any given scheme that is the problem, its controlling the State over the long term that will be the issue.
 

GeorgeK

Member
Location
Leicestershire
^This, otherwise you might invest heavily to set up a long term agreement but if the payments are cut prematurely, you lose money. If it's expensive to revert the land back to agriculture or impossible because it becomes protected habitat you've then lost most of the land's value too.
The other problem is once carbon is sequestered, the land has to be managed to keep it locked up FOREVER, or it will be released again. It's hard to imagine payments continuing indefinitely to maintain carbon that was stored years ago.
 

farmerm

Member
Location
Shropshire
If the government wants land permanently reverted to a role of carbon sequestration and wildlife habit they it should buy that land at it’s full value and put it into trust for the nation. Compensating land owners indefinitely to degrade the economic value of their asset makes no sense long term for either the land owner or the tax payer.
 
Interestingly low figures being used in the survey for the the switch to Woodland and Scrub for arable land I felt!

The suggestion mentioned elsewhere here, that the woodland option would only really work if the Govt paid what is effectively the arable price for the land on which trees would be established. I would suggest scrub would need similiar payments, albeit this land can be reverted to arable more easily.
 
There is one thing above all others that those devising these schemes must address - namely that whatever a landowner signs up to must be reversible at the end of the scheme. That is to say no landowner is going to sign up to long term schemes of whatever nature if there is any possibility, however remote, that at the end of it he will be unable to return to farming it in the way he was prior to entry.

Tied into this is the risk of political change - these sort of schemes will be long term ones, maybe several decades. That is eons in political time, and anyone signing such a contract is open to huge amounts of risk that the political wind will change. Contracts would need to be 100% binding on the State in its entirety, not just the body (such as the RPA or Defra) who is the countersignature. Its no good a landowner signing with one part of government, only for another part to change their rules afterwards.

For example a contract with Defra might say that the landowner had the right to return his land to agriculture at its end. Then Natural England come along halfway through and say 'We've changed our rules on what qualifies as an SSSI, your land now can't be reverted to agriculture' and the farmer is left in limbo, having to fight some interminable legal battle to get his contract upheld.

Its not the specifics of any given scheme that is the problem, its controlling the State over the long term that will be the issue.
Cannot agree more with this post, especially the points in the first paragaph!

As someone who has been involved in Stewardship since the mid 90s, I have seen some good and bad schemes along the way. The motive and driver for the Schemes have also changed. ELMs can be good, if the schemes are not too driven by single interest groups/quangos.NGO's!!

However, the biggest change has been the overly complex rules and administration of the latest Schemes. My HLS expires next year and I am very reluctant to roll it over, even on an annual basis...

The proposals to revert some arable to grassland has huge appeal to me, BUT, I need to be sure I actually make a profit from the land and can revert back to Arable at a later date with NO penalties... My last reversion block of low input grassland went back to arable after 10 years (Phew!) as the payment for the replacement HLS Option was so derisory (the adviser agreed) it was unviable. If I could see a profit on low input sucklers, maybe a different viewpoint, but the grass production on the original arable reversion was such that 1 dexter cow/ha was about the limit!!
 
^This, otherwise you might invest heavily to set up a long term agreement but if the payments are cut prematurely, you lose money. If it's expensive to revert the land back to agriculture or impossible because it becomes protected habitat you've then lost most of the land's value too.
The other problem is once carbon is sequestered, the land has to be managed to keep it locked up FOREVER, or it will be released again. It's hard to imagine payments continuing indefinitely to maintain carbon that was stored years ago.
I was on the equivalent entry level scheme in Wales called Glastir for 5 years. Before that I was on one called Tir Gofal for 10 years. Did a lot of environmental work - hedge management, bridleways, tree planting etc. Last year my Glastir ended (without notice) and we don't have another scheme in place and I can't join another. Although its in Wales and I find our assembly politicans useless it doesn't give me confidence to join another scheme ever again. All this historic work I've done in the past is now effectively worthless - what it is the point of me spending more money to rotationally manage large hedges apart from altruism?
 
Location
Devon
We are looking for arable farmers to complete a survey online about what you want from future agri-environment schemes. We are looking at how carbon sequestration and biodiversity are provided on farmland, and want to know what options you would prefer to implement to this end. We’ll use this to make policy recommendations to the government of the most acceptable, and cost effective, ways of providing carbon sequestration and biodiversity. We’re interested specifically in the appeal of taking larger areas of land out of production and farming how you want elsewhere vs implementing actions that change practices on farmed land in some way. Some of these practices only apply to arable land – hence not opening it up to all farm types. You can skip any questions you dont want to answer - it will make you enter a postcode but partial postcodes are fine.

You can access the survey here https://cambridge.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_57w7CIWNYOmdQYR

Please get in touch if you have any questions (lc591@cam.ac.uk).

Lydia Collas
University of Cambridge
So then you think that the views of only arable farmers matters then @icollas ??

Are you suggesting/ going to put forward that grassland/mixed farms should be excluded from the new ELMS scheme given that you think that grassland farmers views shouldn't be taken into account??
 
Location
East Mids
So then you think that the views of only arable farmers matters then @icollas ??

Are you suggesting/ going to put forward that grassland/mixed farms should be excluded from the new ELMS scheme given that you think that grassland farmers views shouldn't be taken into account??
There are lots of different organisations running surveys or more formal consultations on ELMS ideas, but not all are looking at all aspects, depending on their own areas of expertise. I'm going to a CLA organised workshop to discuss different aspects in a few weeks and includes grassland farms (and non-CLA members).
 
Location
Devon
There are lots of different organisations running surveys or more formal consultations on ELMS ideas, but not all are looking at all aspects, depending on their own areas of expertise. I'm going to a CLA organised workshop to discuss different aspects in a few weeks and includes grassland farms (and non-CLA members).
Whole scheme is going to end up unworkable for all farmers at this rate with all these different lobby groups with their own agenda's having an input, you cannot have one scheme for arable farmers and another for grassland farms and then another for mixed farms or dairy farms etc etc..

Broad outline/ rules and goal's of the scheme need to broadly be the same for all sectors of the industry.
 
Location
East Mids
Whole scheme is going to end up unworkable for all farmers at this rate with all these different lobby groups with their own agenda's having an input, you cannot have one scheme for arable farmers and another for grassland farms and then another for mixed farms or dairy farms etc etc..

Broad outline/ rules and goal's of the scheme need to broadly be the same for all sectors of the industry.
It's not 'one scheme for arable farmers and one for grassland farms' . Do you actually know what you are talking about? The current proposals being discussed are for an entry level, a mid level of environmental enhancement and a larger landscape level scheme for collaborative projects.
 

lcollas

New Member
So then you think that the views of only arable farmers matters then @icollas ??

Are you suggesting/ going to put forward that grassland/mixed farms should be excluded from the new ELMS scheme given that you think that grassland farmers views shouldn't be taken into account??
Not at all, and not suggesting that future schemes should include other types of farmers. In an ideal world we would look at all types of farm but we cant look at everything with this study or it would have become too big with too many questions so had to narrow down the target audience
 

lcollas

New Member
No offence to the OP but when agricultural policy recommendations are being led by zoologists from the university zoology department... what hope is there :rolleyes:
Point taken but the fact I fall into the department is mainly a result of historic divisions within the university. I've got plenty of social science & economics training - as do the advisors of the project - we have input from academics at Exeter University's Land, Environment, Energy & Policy Institute. The study really is focused on gauging farmer attitudes and working out what is feasible based on that :)
 
Location
East Mids
Point taken but the fact I fall into the department is mainly a result of historic divisions within the university. I've got plenty of social science & economics training - as do the advisors of the project - we have input from academics at Exeter University's Land, Environment, Energy & Policy Institute. The study really is focused on gauging farmer attitudes and working out what is feasible based on that :)
And farmer attitudes make a massive uptake to scheme uptake and success, without a positive attitude then even if they sign up they go through the motions rather than buying into the scheme. Did a lot of work with ADAS on this prior to the first catchment sensitive farming schemes were launched.
 
I'll fill in the survey tonight when I've got a moment. I've got one thing to add @lcollas
Just remember that as a nation we are not self-sufficient in food, and therefore must import.

I don't see any sense in turning productive UK arable land over to trees, and then importing even more food. If we want more land locked into trees for carbon capture, then why not do it in countries where food supply exceeds requirements. E.g. buy land in Brazil and either leave it as rainforest, or re-plant rainforest. Then leave our UK land as arable land so that we can feed ourselves.

I would be interested to hear why you might think that reforestation (or other scheme which takes UK arable land out of production), is a good idea when we already import much of our pigmeat, quite a lot of beef and a lot of pulses, all of which must be shipped here.

Hope that makes sense, and is a useful thought.
 

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