Farmers will be paid for reducing insecticides and growing legumes as part of government plans to encourage more environmentally friendly farming.
Defra secretary, Thérèse Coffey, this week announced a raft of new plans for the UK Government’s environmental land management schemes (ELMs) which are designed to incentivise farmers to produce food sustainably while protecting nature and enhancing the environment.
Six additional standards will be added to the sustainable farming incentive this year, meaning farmers can receive payment for actions on hedgerows, grassland, arable and horticultural land, pest management and nutrient management, as well as previously announced actions to improve soils and moorlands.
An integrated pest management standard will include payments for not using insecticides and for planting companion crops. Farmers who incorporate legumes, such as beans and chickpeas, into their crop and grassland management to help build soil fertility will also be rewarded.
The government also launched an enhanced version of the countryside stewardship scheme, which will see around 30 additional actions available to farmers by the end of 2024, on top of the more than 250 actions already announced.
In addition, Defra confirmed it will open applications for the second round of the landscape recovery scheme in the spring to support ambitious large-scale nature recovery projects, focusing on net zero, protected sites and habitat creation.
“Farmers are at the heart of our economy – producing the food on our tables as well as being the custodians of the land it comes from,” said Coffey. “These two roles go hand-in-hand and we are speeding up the roll out of our farming schemes so that everyone can be financially supported as they protect the planet while producing food more sustainably.”
NFU vice president David Exwood said the new detail on the schemes was “incredibly useful and provides some of the clarity we have been asking for”.
The Soil Association said that while there were welcome elements in the new announcement it was time to “stop tinkering around the edges” in the face of a climate emergency and ecological collapse. “Government must provide the long-term vision to help farmers do more than make small changes. They need a package of guidance and incentives that spark a shift to nature-friendly farming across their entire farms,” said Soil Association head of farming policy Gareth Morgan.