Some English hill farmers face a financial black hole due to the loss of Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (UELS), a meeting called to discuss the implications of CAP reform in the hills heard this week.
UELS, currently accessible to most of England’s hill farmers, is typically worth £62/ha (£25/acre) annually or £23/ha (£9.30/acre) on moorland parcels of 15ha (37 acres) or more.
The environmental scheme, effectively the successor to old upland support schemes such as the Hill Farm Allowance, will disappear under CAP reform.
The New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) will provide payment options to hill farmers, but some will not be able to access them and those who do will have to do more for their money.
About 30 representatives, including commons associations across England, sheep breed organisations, the NFU’s upland farming group and its president, Peter Kendall, met in Penrith on Tuesday to discuss the implications of the changes for farmers.
The loss of UELS is linked to plans announced by Defra Secretary Owen Paterson to ‘move money uphill’ under the reformed CAP.
He has already confirmed that the lowland and SDA (non-moorland rates) will be merged – resulting in a healthy hike in the SDA at the expense of a relatively small drop in the lowland payment – a change which has been widely accepted.
However, plans for a significant hike in the moorland payment – the initial proposal was to raise it to €62/ha (£51/ha) compared with €34/ha (£28/ha), if the current regional share was carried through – has proved more divisive. A final decision has been delayed until later this year.
Robin Milton, chairman of the NFU’s upland’s group, said the meeting, chaired by Keswick farmer Will Cockbain, sought to discuss these issues in the round.
“With all the uncertainty over UELS and the moorland payment, we want to ensure a package of support that will ensure the continuity of hill farming.
“We are also trying to increase recognition about what farming above the moorland line entails – there is an awful lot of productive farmland and in-bye land there,” Mr Milton said.
After the meeting, Mr Kendall said not enough was known yet about other elements of the reform package to make any firm decision about increasing the moorland payment.
“We need to work to Defra’s timetable,” he said. “We have always argued the uplands are most vulnerable and have the least choice of what they can do, so they need looking after in this reform.
“But we don’t want to disadvantage lowland livestock farmers.”
(Source – http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/cap-reform/hill-farmers-meet-to-discuss-life-after-uels/61447.article)