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Pilot scheme will pay farmers to protect nature

East Anglian farmers have been urged to get involved in testing a new post-Brexit payments scheme which will reward their efforts to protect nature and tackle climate change.

Defra has invited applications from farmers to trial its Sustainable Farming Incentive, one of the three tiers of the planned environmental land management scheme (ELMS) set to replace EU subsidies which are being phased out Brexit.

The department is looking for “several hundred farmers” to take part in the pilot scheme, and has published long-awaited details on the rates it will pay for producing “public goods” such as improving soil health and hedgerow management.

Farmers taking part will initially be able to select from eight “standards” to build their own farm agreements. For example, an “arable and horticultural land standard” will pay up to £74/ha for work including providing areas of tall scrub for nesting and sheltering wildlife, encouraging crop pest predators and using precision application of fertilisers.

And a new “hedgerow standard” will pay up to £24/100m for including more trees in hedges and creating parallel buffer strips.

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