Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our Latest from the Woods newsletter (previously Forestry Latest News ), which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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ANOTHER month, another announcement about tree-related funding in England. This time ministers had their sights set firmly on the nation's farmers when Steve Barclay opened 2024 by detailing sweeping changes to Environmental Land Management payments (ELMs). 

Adjustments made to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) offer included the addition of agroforestry for the first time, and increased payment rates and extended contracts for woodland creation and maintenance.

Forestry Journal:  Steve Barclay Steve Barclay

In terms of cold, hard cash, the new funding could see farmers paid up to £849 per hectare for ten years to maintain in-field, high density agroforestry, while actions to manage and restore woodland over a similar timeframe promise £943 per ha. Put simply, English farmers could get a fair bang for their buck. 

This all sounds very encouraging and a step in the right direction. Agroforestry was one of the hot topics of 2023 – the theme led the ICF's annual conference and saw the first-ever Agroforestry Show held in September – and this news suggests 2024 will be no different. 

But before we all get the bunting out and assume this will drive up England's woodland-creation rates to where they need to be (spoiler: the party hats won't be needed anytime soon), a word of warning from several forestry figures, who cautiously welcomed the announcement. 

Forestry Journal: The ICF's Louise Simpson was among those to cautiously welcome the announcement The ICF's Louise Simpson was among those to cautiously welcome the announcement (Image: Supplied)

"Trees integrated into farming systems are an important tool in helping to create resilient farming systems whilst tackling the nature and climate crises," said Andy Egan, head of conservation policy at the Woodland Trust. "However, we are cautious that there is still uncertainty over the future of ELM budgets and there needs to be greater ongoing funding with a robust and effective regulatory baseline."

Louise Simpson, chief executive of the ICF, added: "Whilst we appreciate that agroforestry has the potential to help us meet our planting and environmental targets, it will be of limited benefit if trees are not correctly established and maintained to maximise resilience, biodiversity and soil health."

More agroforestry can only be a good thing, but it needs to be done right.