What to do after your ELS/HLS agreement expires?

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CFE believes that keeping environmental features can not only pay off financially for a farm business but they are also key in showing the wider public that farmers care about the environment and protect natural resources.  The Campaign asks farmers who are leaving expiring Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)agreements to think about how they can manage their land in the future for the benefit of the environment.

CFE works at a local level to encourage farmers to retain this land in environmental management and preserve the value invested by government, taxpayers and farmers. This will ensure a true legacy for the land management practices implemented under ELS. Where appropriate, CFE also encourages farmers to apply for mid-tier Countryside Stewardship and can signpost to relevant advice on how to enter the scheme.

 Anyone with an expiring ELS Agreement should:

•           Consider keeping the land in environmental management under CFE measures. The unproductive field margins and awkward field corners you may have had in ELS could still have numerous benefits for your business as well as for wildlife, for protecting soils and protecting water courses.

•           Consider applying for Countryside Stewardship

Why should you keep your land in environmental measures?

1.         To keep your options open.

Retaining features on your land allows thinking time before you decide whether to enter the scheme. If you did not obtain an agreement starting on January 2016, there is nothing to stop you re applying each year until you are successful.

2.         To continue the good work you have done

Keeping the environmental measures will mean that the great work you have done continues. The options you implemented within your ELS scheme have not only helped biodiversity but they have protected key resources on your farm. By taking these features out, you are undoing all the work you have done, and which took time and money to develop.

Retaining your environmental features doesn’t cost you money yet it gives you more options in the future for your farm business. The removal of these environmental areas on your farm can have many financial implications, as the land may be marginal land which proved unprofitable and delivered low yields. By reclaiming the land back into production you may have the initial financial burden of conversion followed by years of inefficient production.

For example, some field corners may be low yielding, suffer compaction by increased traffic and would be better suited as a vital source of pollen and nectar for pollinating insects or for overwintering pest predators.

3.         To support your farm business and increase profitability

Voluntary measures can:

•           Can play a key part in your BPS claim, with key environmental features fitting in with your EFA requirements.

•           Help prevent soil erosion and increase soil quality

•           Buffer strips and field margins can allow access for hedge cutting

•           Make the most of increasing yields on the most productive land, but keeping your marginal land out of production.

•           Making the best use of marginal land- putting marginal land back into production will not only have upfront costs but will cost year on year through inefficient production

•           Help support pollinating insects on farm by putting in flower strips. Pollinators can increase yield and productivity of certain crops

•           Help support the birds you like to see on your farm

Farmers and Land managers need to get recognised for the great work they do for the environment. The CFE takes the industry’s message to the wider public and shows that the environment is very much part of farming and land management businesses.

Click here for the latest information on Natural England's one-to-one clinics

For further information please see our resources:

Conservation management advice for your arable business

Conservation management advice for your grassland business

Pollinator management for your farm business

Managing Hedges to benefit Pollinators

Nutrient Management for your Farm Business

Soil Management for your Farm Business

Crop protection for arable and livestock farms

Please see all our events on the CFE events page of the Website.

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