What we think about the Environmental Land Management system

Nature friendly farming at Conygree Farm, Gloucestershire

Eighty per cent of the National Trust's land is farmed, either by ourselves or by over 1,350 agricultural tenants. We're working hard to ensure that our land supports our efforts to ensure people and nature can thrive. Government policy has a big impact on our ability to deliver our ambitions so we've shared our views on the direction of future farming policy.

There is an increasing sense that the ambition is shifting for the Government's proposed new Environmental Land Management scheme. From an initial aspiration to revolutionise the way farmers and others are supported to deliver a better environment, we seem to be looking at something much closer to the current system.

We believe that the new scheme needs to be the foundation of a new approach to restorative land management that can create benefits for the future of farming, land management, nature conservation and people.

For this to happen we need to return to viewing the Environmental Land Management scheme as a key part of the government’s environment strategy, and part of a wider and holistic strategy for food and farming.

Summary points of our response

  • We support the proposal to reward farmers, foresters and land managers for the delivery of environmental public goods, such as healthy soils, improved water quality, protection of historic monuments and sites, improved public access to the countryside, recovering wildlife and adaptation to climate change.
  • The Environmental Land Management scheme must be supported by long-term funding based on an independent assessment of need. Our own research with the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts showed that £2.3bn a year was needed to meet existing environmental targets associated with land management alone. 
  • The Environmental Land Management scheme cannot tackle all of the environmental challenges associated with farming and a separate fund is needed to help transition farmers to a new baseline.
  • The scheme needs to support farmers and other land managers with the provision of good quality advice for farmers, safeguards against the import of low standard food, a complementary approach to improving productivity, and a strong regulatory baseline.
  • To truly deliver the environmental recovery the UK needs, the scheme will need to be integrated with other mechanisms proposed under the 25-Year Environment Plan such as Local Nature Recovery Strategies and biodiversity net gain. 

What is the National Trust doing to support nature on farmland?

While the recent coronavirus pandemic has shown how the need for places that connect people to nature, beauty and history has never been greater, we also know that nature is declining, and the threat of the climate crisis cannot be overstated.

This is why our ambition is that, by 2025, at least half of our farmland will be ‘nature friendly’, with hedgerows, field margins, ponds, woodland and other habitats allowing native plants and animals to thrive. We also plan to restore or create 25,000 hectares of priority habitat by 2025 and in the next 10 years we will plant and establish 20 million new trees.

Sustainable farming is a crucial tool in achieving our environmental ambitions. On our let estate, we achieve our aims by finding common cause and working in partnership with our tenants. 

We're supporting the development of government policy by running partnership projects on our land to test and trial how the Environmental Land Management scheme could work on the ground.