Businesses back payments for nature-friendly farming

The government should raise the ambition of schemes that will pay farmers to adopt more nature friendly practices.

That’s according to a coalition of more than 50 food businesses, banks, farmers and NGOs which has called for “bold and decisive action” to create “a productive, regenerative, and resilient food system into the future”.

Coordinated by WWF and supported by the likes of Sodexo, Tesco, Arla Foods and HSBC, the group issued a joint public statement this week in which signatories said they were united in support of the government’s environmental land management schemes (ELMS) “as the foundation of supporting English farm businesses through a sustainable and just agricultural transition”.

The schemes replace the EU’s common agricultural policy and will pay farmers public money for delivering goods like clean water and biodiversity through nature-friendly farming practices.

ELMS covers three schemes – sustainable farming incentive, local nature recovery, and landscape recovery. Farmers are still awaiting clarity over the details of the schemes which were subject of a recent government review.

“Currently, the only action we’re seeing on ELMS is ongoing delays and tinkering with names. Defra need to move on from the upheaval and delays of recent months and deliver on their promise to farmers with the clarity, ambition and certainty they need,” said Kate Norgrove, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF-UK.

A shift to more nature-friendly, regenerative farming practices features prominently in the net-zero strategies of many food businesses.

In the joint statement the group wrote: “The UK’s legal net-zero and biodiversity commitments depend on the way that our land is used to produce food. Enhancing the ELM schemes is the single largest act of leadership and support that government can provide to this shared endeavour at this crucial time - now is the time to move forward without delay.”

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