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Who'd have thought radically altering the way that farmers are supported by the taxpayer to produce food, & at least in theory all the other "goods" that land provides society, would take more than a few tweaks and a couple of years. Farmers are not happy with ELMS... thread 1/15
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And neither is the nature sector. This is partly because it's only addressing part of the problem. Paying farmers a per ha payment is relatively simple. It's also deeply inequitous, because most of the £ goes to the biggest landowners. But it meant that farmers could get by. 2/15
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taking away the area payment, let's call it a welfare payment, means that a lot of farms will not be able to make ends meet. This is because we have a very dysfunctional food economy in the UK. Most of the "profit" in the system doesn't go to farmers, except the biggest ones 3/15
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The Dysons can turn a profit because they operate at a massive scale and have invested in the latest tech. These advantages cannot apply to a 300 acre mixed farm. Changing the system to a "public £ for public goods" approach, redistributes the support in a different way. 4/15
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In that the public goods £ naturally flows to the farms with the most public goods, or the most potential to improve public goods provision. But it only pays for the public goods, while the farmer is expected to derive a living from selling the food they produce. 5/15
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But this has increasingly been a problem area for farmers, as the big retailers and big food industry players have come to dominate the sale of food to the public (same inside the industry where crops are grown & sold to feed animals). Farmers see hardly any of the "profit". 6/15
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In order for the PMPG approach to work (without paying enormous amounts for public goods) farmers need to see more income from the sale of their products. But of course the Big 4 retailers + the big food industry players, aren't going to give away their huge profits are they 7/15
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These big food players have very strong connections to Govt to make sure they're protected. Impasse. Farmers push Govt to create a PMPG system which doesn't cost too much to deliver & doesn't affect how much they produce. The Nature sector pulls in the opposite direction. 8/15

Sep 28, 2022 · 6:10 PM UTC

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There's also a strong cultural resistance within Whitehall to radical change; & thinking/systems that have been used for decades under the old CAP are hard to shift. Even if Defra was ready for a big change, did anyone really expect the RPA to shed its CAP clothes overnight? 9/15
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To add to the complexity, there's an existential crisis, here & now - the nature/climate crisis. That means we have to do everything differently, including what we eat. This hasn't really sunk in to the farming sector. Then again it hasn't sunk in to wider society either. 10/15
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A shift to eating much less meat, more fruit & veg, is inevitable. Yet this debate about farm support isn't even addressing it. This cultural shift has to happen and quick. There's still a massive difference between the sustainable intensification folk & the agroecologists 11/15
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As to how our food will be produced in the future. And that will mean very different approaches to how farmland delivers the public goods we all depend on (land sharing vs land sparing). The current argument over ELMS is spiky, but it's only a small part of what is to come. 12/15
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ELMS will be flawed, but can be a waypoint on the route to more sustainable farming/food production. We need to grow our own food, but also accept that we will import foods too. We're actually 75% self-sufficient in indigenous foods, but import most of our fruit & veg 13/15
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We can't make all these changes all at the same time. And being too radical now could mean we lose critical farming knowledge and culture, essential to creating the food future we need. If we need more time to make ELMS better, so be it, though it'll never be perfect. 14/15
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This Defra "rapid review" could be used to create a short term support package, targeted at particular costs eg energy; & also address the inequities of food retail. But we must keep heading where we have to go, to produce the food we need, without destroying the envt. 15/15
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