Long-awaited details of the post-Brexit farm subsidy scheme have been published by the government.
Landowners in England will be rewarded for their work to protect the environment as well as for food production.
Environmental Land Management (Elms) programs will pay farmers public money for activities such as chemical-free crop pest control and aiming for net-zero emissions.
These measures have been widely welcomed by agriculture and environmental groups.
According to the government, the money will allow farmers to produce food in a sustainable way, while protecting nature and improving the environment.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said farmers are at the heart of the economy, producing food but also being custodians of the land it comes from.
“These two roles go hand-in-hand and we are accelerating our agricultural programs so that everyone can receive financial support as they protect the planet while producing food more sustainably,” she said.
Elms are set to replace the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) now that the UK is no longer part of the EU. They represent the biggest shock to agricultural policy in England in 40 years.
Farm policy in the UK is a devolved responsibility, with each country implementing its own subsidy schemes.
In England, Elms will now include three payment schemes:
The Incentive for Sustainable Agriculture program is being expanded to include payments for the maintenance of hedges, grasslands and soils.
Countryside Stewardship Plus will reward farmers for “taking coordinated action, working with neighboring farms and landowners to support climate and nature goals.
This includes natural flood management, peatland restoration and forest enhancement.
NFU vice president David Exwood said the details were “extremely useful” and provided “the clarity we’ve been asking for”.
Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said it wasn’t perfect, but it was “a start”.
“However, individual actions alone will not achieve our climate and nature goals. There is still a need to combine efforts to avoid a piecemeal approach.
The UK is one of the most depleted countries in the world – in the bottom 10% of countries – and the Soil Association’s head of agricultural policy, Gareth Morgan, said it was “tinkering with the edges”.
“We welcome the government’s growing sense of urgency to help farmers produce food resiliently and in harmony with nature. But much more is needed to help them make the transformative changes that will help us meet our climate and nature goals.”
Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said many farmers would be encouraged to experiment with the new schemes, but there was “little news” for moorland or hill farmers.
CAP payments were worth around £3.5 billion a year, most of which were based on how much land each farmer owned, leading to criticism that they benefited the wealthiest.