ELS falls short of DEFRA ‘green’ target

The area of farmland put down to environmental stewardship schemes is likely to fall short of DEFRA‘s target by the end of this year, latest figures have shown.

By the end of October, total Entry Level Scheme (including Organic ELS) applications accounted for 84% of the 5.5m hectares target, while Higher Level Schemes totalled 79% of the 200,000ha target. “With only two months to go, there seems a distinct possibility the targets may not be met,” Nigel Boatman of the government’s Central Science Laboratory said.

Farmers eager to benefit from recent high grain prices could be one reason why stewardship applications had declined, he acknowledged.

“It’s not necessarily a big problem if the targets aren’t met, it is probably more important to know why. If it was due to high prices, DEFRA might need to think about how points are allocated.”

That was something being partly addressed by an ongoing review of the schemes, which is looking at whether point allocations are appropriate for existing options and whether guidance handbooks need changing to make schemes clearer. A detailed review, including the possibility of adding new options, is scheduled for 2008/09.





% target achieved as at 30 October

ELS (inc OELS)


83.9 (4,631,280ha)



78.7 (157,400ha)



  • Farmers in the south-west have less chance of having HLS applications accepted than those in the south-east, due to budgetary constraints, according to Chris Snow, who farms organic beef and sheep on the Dorset/Hampshire border.

Mr Snow – who farms on the Dorset side of the river Avon – applied for the HLS in March, but failed to reach the panel stage. Yet, his landlord on the Hampshire side of the river applied in July and got accepted straight away. “Anyone who falls into the south-east region seems to get accepted, while those in the south-west don’t. There really needs to be some cross-border co-operation, or make the regions smaller to split the budget up a bit.”

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