Hill Farm Allowances in England are to be scrapped in 2010 and integrated into environmental stewardship schemes, DEFRA has announced.

Although the exact details of the new Upland Entry Level Stewardship (UELS) scheme have yet to be finalised, DEFRA says it will be a points-based system for meeting basic requirements.

Farmers will also be able to choose from a menu of land management options.

“One of the key requirements will be to maintain a minimum level of stock on moorland, in recognition of the importance of grazing on this land for the environment and landscape,” said a statement.

“There will also be specific requirements and guidance for commons, reflecting the benefits associated with the shared management of common land.”

Disadvantaged areas

The move confirms plans announced in 2006, that to continue receiving upland support, farmers in England’s severely disadvantaged areas would have to deliver more tangible environmental benefits.

“The uplands are an immensely important part of our natural environment,” said DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn.

“We want the new strand of environmental stewardship to maintain and improve the biodiversity, natural resources, landscape and historical values of England’s uplands, and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

Uplands ELS will be open to all upland farmers and land managers, though the exact details will be further refined over the summer.

“As well as continuing to work with stakeholder organisations, DEFRA will be seeking views from the wider hill farming community, and testing the proposals on a range of 60 hill farms to ensure it is practical for the farmers involved and achieves its objectives,” said a statement.

Final proposals will be announced later this year. The scheme will be administered by Natural England, rather then the Rural Payments Agency.