DEFRA has announced details of its £31m Upland Entry Level Scheme which will support farmers who protect wildlife and biodiversity.

The scheme replaces the Hill Farm Allowance and was launched in Cheshire on Tuesday 9 February by junior DEFRA minister Huw Irranca-Davies.

“The uplands reflect a fundamental aspect of the English countryside – its history, natural beauty, and a way of life – and the new scheme rewards farmers who care for and protect these iconic landscapes,” Mr Irranca-Davies said.

“Upland ELS will be available to all uplands farmers who make the commitment to protect wildlife, look after watercourses, and ensure that grazing helps the landscape, as well as looking after historic sites and dry-stone walls,” he said.

Up to £31m from the Rural Development Programme will be made available to fund all farmers who qualify for the scheme. Training, including workshops, demonstration days and individual visits will be available through Natural England to assist uplands and tenant farmers joining the scheme.

Farmers can apply for Uplands ELS by requesting an application pack or using ELS Online.

“The first agreements will begin on 1 July so farmers seeking this start date should apply by 1 May,” a DEFRA offical said.

Hill farmers who join Uplands ELS will remain eligible for the Single Payment scheme, as well as other Environmental Stewardship schemes, such as Higher Level Stewardship, Entry Level Stewardship and Organic ELS.