5th January 2024 saw the latest update to Defra’s post-Brexit agricultural transition plan, headlining: 50 new actions in ELM to be released in 2024, a 10% increase in SFI and CS payment rates, a single application service for farmers to apply for SFI and CS Mid Tier, and ‘premium’ payments for environmentally ambitious actions (including agroforestry). There was also an update on how farm tenants fit into the ELM.
For agroforestry, the information given was preliminary with the promise of more detail later in the year. however the Organic Research Centre has pieced together some more information based on working with Defra on the Agroforestry ELM Test project.
Information on the ORC website includes more detail on trees, woodlands, hedgerows, wood pasture, and parkland.
The Organic Research Centre said, “Low and very low density agroforestry on low sensitivity land will be in SFI and high and medium and high density agroforestry in CS. Any agroforestry on land with cultural or environmental sensitivities will be in CS. This means that farmers with low or very low density agroforestry on land with few sensitivities will be able to apply and get their payment with a minimum of fuss, whereas those in CS will be expected to write a more comprehensive management plan and applications may be subject to additional regulations.
“In our final report for the Agroforestry ELM Test we asked 30 farmers what they think maintenance rates should be for an agroforestry system at 150stems/ha (likely CS “medium”). A majority of farmers said the payment should be greater than £125, so with the proposed payment of £595, most farmers should be happy.”
ORC also said, “The update gives some clarification on the tenancy issue in ELM. Tenants will be offered three-year SFI agreements to align with the average length of Farm Business Tenancies; they will not be required to obtain landlord consent for actions; they will be able to leave the agreement before three years if their circumstances change; and they will be able to enter an agreement even if their tenancy does not stretch three years.
“Some of these proposals sit a little awkwardly with agroforestry. Major changes to land management such as planting in-field trees would normally be with landowner consent. It also introduces the possibility that, if for example, a landowner agrees to agroforestry only grudgingly with the tenant, and the tenant leaves after 3 years, the trees could conceivably be torn out.”