Upland farmers to benefit from improved access to Defra farming schemes

UPLAND farmers from Exmoor to the Lake District will benefit from improved access to the government’s farming schemes, with increased payment rates and improved options under Countryside Stewardship.

Upland farmers play a vital role in keeping the nation fed while protecting the environment, and government is committed to making sure that their interests are protected and represented in the new farming schemes being delivered now that Britain has left the EU and is free from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy.

NFU Vice President David Exwood welcomed the announcement as “really encouraging” following the NFU’s work to raise concerns around farmers not getting a fair deal under new ELM schemes.

“We have fought repeatedly for ELMs to be developed in a way that is inclusive and available to every farm business. This announcement for upland farmers means they will receive a huge uplift to the support available under the new schemes which will provide them with the confidence they need to plan for the future,” he said.

The changes announced today by the Secretary of State for Food and Farming follow direct feedback from the sector, and will help to support them as sustainable food producers and custodians of England’s most-loved landscapes for years to come.

Secretary of State for Food and Farming Thérèse Coffey said “The uplands are a hugely important part of our English landscape and heritage and upland farmers are crucial for our rural economy.

“We’ve worked closely with upland farmers from day one, and they’ve told me personally what further support they need, so today we’re further responding to their feedback with increased payments, an improved offer and more engagement to ensure they are at the centre of our schemes.

“These changes will support the delivery of the government’s pledge to ensure there is something for every type of farmer in their new schemes, as direct land-based payments are phased out.

“Rewarding farmers for low inputs on grasslands in upland areas, which previously earned farmers £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.”

Following feedback from uplands farmers and industry representatives, the government is making payment rates in environmental land management schemes equal for both upland and lowland farms where they are carrying out the same actions. This means increased rates for upland farmers in four Countryside Stewardship options.

Defra is also reviewing and amending a further seven Countryside Stewardship options make them more accessible to upland farmers.

Upland farmers can:

  • Get paid for over 130 relevant actions under the Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farming Incentive from 2024. This will include new moorland and upland peat action, with considerably higher payments for moorlands in good environmental condition
  • Extend their Higher Level Stewardship agreements for five years running alongside Countryside Stewardship or SFI agreements, allowing them to get paid for more actions and take advantage of price increases
  • Apply for the second round of the Landscape Recovery scheme, which is open to individual or groups of land managers
  • Apply for upland Wildlife Offers for a range of management options that focus on providing habitats for farm wildlife
  • Apply for the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme if they are in an AONB, National Park or the Broads
  • Express an interesting in a free vet visit to reduce costs and improve productivity.
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