The government has unveiled the next stages of its Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) but farmers are concerned about the lack of detail.

Two new schemes will replace the Basic Payment Scheme and Countryside Stewardship.

They aim to reward farmers and landowners for 'public goods' which the government defines as actions that benefit the environment.

Specifically, the new schemes are designed to help halt the decline in threatened species by 2030, bringing up to 60 per cent of England’s agricultural soil under sustainable management by 2030 and restoring up to 300,000 hectares of wildlife habitat by 2042.

The Local Nature Recovery (LNR) scheme will pay farmers for local actions such as creating wildlife habitat, planting trees or restoring peat and wetland areas.

The Landscape Recovery (LR) scheme will support more radical changes to land-use and habitat restoration such as establishing new nature reserves, restoring floodplains or creating woodland.

Taken together with the Sustainable Farming Incentive, they aim to give farmers and land owners a range of voluntary options.

South West Farmer: Water voleWater vole

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference today (January 6), Environment Secretary George Eustice welcomed applications for the first wave of LR projects.

Up to 15 projects will be selected focusing on two themes – recovering England's threatened native species and restoring England’s rivers and streams.

He said that these pilot projects are expected to create 10,000 hectares of restored wildlife habitat, make carbon savings between 25 to 50 kilotonnes per year and improve the status of around half of England's most threatened species in England, including the Eurasian curlew, sand lizard and water vole.

He said: "We want to see profitable farming businesses producing nutritious food, underpinning a growing rural economy, where nature is recovering and people have better access to it.

"Through our new schemes, we are going to work with farmers and land managers to halt the decline in species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature."

South West Farmer: Peatbogs at Studland Nature ReservePeatbogs at Studland Nature Reserve

An early version of the LNR scheme will be trialled in 2023 with a full roll-out across the country from 2024 - but farmers are concerned that they may be out of pocket before the new schemes are active.

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: "While it is encouraging that sustainable food production is recognised, there is still a lack of detail on how it fits in with the schemes’ ambitions to improve farm biodiversity, restore peatlands and manage woodlands.

"This lack of detail is preventing farmers from making crucial long-term decisions that are essential to them running viable and profitable businesses.

“There are still a number of questions that need answers, not least the costs farmers are likely to incur from participating in these new schemes and how the schemes are accessible right across the country and for every farmer.

"Currently there appears to be a lack of options for tenant farmers to get involved and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“It is also clear that neither LNR or LR will be widely available to farmers over the next three years, making it difficult to replace the falling income from BPS.

“At a time when public support for British food and farming is at a high, our biggest concern is that these schemes result in reduced food production in the UK, leading to the need to import more food from countries with production standards that would be illegal for our farmers here.

"This simply off-shores our production and any environmental impacts that go with it and would be morally reprehensible.”