Increased payment for species-rich grasslands under ELMS

The New Year began with the welcome announcement by DEFRA Minister Steve Barclay that the management and restoration of floodplain meadows was included in the list of the 21 high priority actions highlighted in the Agricultural Transition Plan update This has partly come about through our advocacy work as we helped both secure the agreement by Defra to develop the new floodplain meadow option for the Countryside Stewardship Plus scheme (CS+), and then drafted the actual option recognising the particular challenges and benefits for this grassland habitat.  

Just as welcome was the news that, alongside an increase to £646/ha funding for farmers managing species-rich grasslands in Countryside Stewardship (CS), there is a much higher than expected payment of £1,070/hafor floodplain meadows.   

We see this as a reflection on the vital multifunctional role of floodplain meadows and the complexity of their management. A role which was recently championed on national news by Gloucestershire farmer Debbie Wilkins who shared her story through the Nature Friendly Farming Network, an organisation set up to champion the role farmers can play in tackling the joint climate and biodiversity crisis.  Natural England also supports this new option commenting: “a new action that pays £1,070 per hectare for managing species-rich floodplain meadows is timely and will reward those farmers working with and storing water for the benefit of others “ 

The Government has promised that further details on the high priority actions will come through in early 2024 and we will share any update on the FMP website when they come through. The FMP are looking to continue our engagement with Defra /  Natural England on next steps, including monitoring and evaluation to ascertain uptake.  We have echoed the concerns of others, including Plantlife, that advisory resources are provided freely, or at low cost, to help farmers achieve good environmental outcomes from their land. We are also keen to address the risk that eligibility for payment of grasslands is not impacted by a gap in the assessment and listing of high-quality grasslands on the Priority Habitat Inventory. In addition, we join the call that safeguards must be put in place to prevent semi-improved grasslands, with restoration potential, from being entered inappropriately into herbal ley ELM options. 

Plantlife have released an X/Twitter poll asking for quick views on ELM for species-rich grasslands.

Discussing the value of floodplain meadows and what is needed to support them as part of a session organised by Plantlife at the Oxford Real Farming Conference.

We had an opportunity to speak about the value of floodplain meadows and what is needed to support them as part of a session organised by Plantlife at the popular Oxford Real Farming Conference. A soundcloud recording is available. Key points from the discussion included the steer from those in the audience that farmers need guidance to ‘stack’ payments for delivering benefits from grassland, and collaboration is needed on communicating value on species-rich grassland needed between farmers, researchers, advocacy groups, & NGOs. What also came across was the continuing need to capture the hearts and minds of farmers as they connect with the positive impact they can have for nature as a result of their actions – this was wonderfully illustrated by member of the audience: a farmer who had his farm transformed by his daughter from intensively managed to more nature-friendly, and was now hopeful about the future and being part of the solution.

For advice and guidance on how to manage and restore floodplain meadows, particularly if the promise of the new option is enticing, please head to the FMP advice pages: