The CLA has set out a three-phase plan to improve the beleaguered Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme amid fears massive environmental gains could be lost in the coming years.
The Government plans to introduce a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) after Brexit, but it is unlikely to be ready for a full roll-out until 2022.
Between now and then, 6,500 Environmental Stewardship and 12,000 CS agreements will come to an end.
It is thought farmers will drop out of these schemes without entering new ones because of the terrible reputation of CS and the expectation that a future scheme will be more attractive.
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “Farmers and land managers are rightly proud of their environmental delivery achieved with the support of agri-environment schemes.
“The basics of CS are good and when it works it can benefit rural businesses and the environment.
“However, too many CLA members are telling us the shambolic administration of the existing CS is putting them off wanting to engage in any new scheme.
“Without improvements, there is a real risk farmers and land managers will lose confidence in agri-environment schemes altogether, putting at risk the Government’s hopes of a Green Brexit.”
The CLA’s improvement plan sets out seven key demands for Ministers across three phases between now and 2022, when the ELMS is likely to begin.
Within the EU – Now until March 2019
Implementation period – March 2019 to December 2020
Pre-introduction of ELMS
The three-phase plan was released shortly after the CLA joined forces with the NFU and Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) to demand old agri-environment scheme agreements be ‘rolled over’ in the years before the new ELMS is introduced.