A welcome announcement from Defra for upland farmers but it does not go far enough!
Today’s Defra announcement of payment uplifts for upland farmers under the UK’s new Environment Land Management (ELM) schemes is welcome news for the farming industry, and especially for the hardest pressed farmers in upland areas.
The announcement means payment rates will be equal for both upland and lowland farms where they are carrying out the same actions. Paying farmers for low inputs on grasslands in upland areas, which previously earned them £98 per hectare, will increase to £151, the same payment farmers elsewhere receive. At the upper end of the scale, creation of upland wood pasture will increase from £333 per hectare to £544 to align payments for upland and lowland farmers.
The uplift is good news for upland farmers, and it’s a partial victory for farming organisations and agricultural service businesses like ours which have been campaigning hard for more than a year now for this additional support.
We work with many upland farmers in the hill farming areas of the north and Scotland. We know the reality of the challenge they face, and we know that even these uplifted payment rates still do not go far enough to support farmers in undertaking the ELM schemes, especially with the continuing inflationary increase in the cost of application.
We would urge Defra to go further not only with the payment rates but also in simplifying the costly process farmers and landowners have to follow in order to apply successfully for the new schemes. We need more supportive resources for the farmers and for the administrative bodies delivering the schemes, like the RPA and Natural England. There are so many changes happening so fast that farmers and those trying to support them are struggling to keep up, and Defra can and must do more to help.
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