NFU warns ministers about uplands support u-turn

UK - The NFU is warning the Government not to drop the model of uplands support it originally backed in its Uplands Reward Structure consultation.
calendar icon 31 October 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

The call comes at a crucial time when Defra has indicated it is considering introducing an uplands only agri-environmental scheme to replace the current HFA in 2008. The NFU believes this stance fails to take into account the contribution of hill farmers above and beyond environmental stewardship.

NFU President Peter Kendal will talk about the hill farmers’ situation when he meets with Lord Rooker, on Thursday November 2. He said: “Getting the new uplands scheme right is more important than getting it soon. I would urge ministers to take a step back, look again at what’s needed and come up with a scheme that does justice to the issues. 

“I have a real fear a rushed implementation will be a botched implementation – we’ve seen that with the Entry Level Scheme and the Single Payment Scheme. Hill farmers have felt the effects of that particular mess all too keenly. Some 700 farmers have received no money and many have received less than 50 per cent. It simply mustn’t happen again.”

On the table for discussion in last year’s consultation were two basic options:
• Option one: A transitional option which envisaged an area-based LFA payment for farmers who had all or most of their holdings in an agri-environment agreement, but allowed them to be paid on all the land they farmed rather than just land under the agreements.
• Option two: An immediate move to an uplands-only environmental stewardship scheme, requiring 5-year management control of all land under the scheme.

NFU national spokesman for the Uplands Will Cockbain has lobbied Defra and other government bodies for an approach which takes into account the complexity of hill farming, including its unique land-holding arrangements.

Speaking about Defra’s apparent change of heart he said: “Upland farming delivers a range of public benefits across a broad spectrum. It would be totally misguided of Defra to measure these against a purely environmental yardstick.

“If Defra persists with its plans to introduce an uplands-only environmental scheme in 2008, it is not going too far to talk about a flight from the hills, so dismally does the plan reflect the realities of hill farming.”

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