New research suggests the Single Payment Scheme is causing significant economic, social and environmental consequences to farmers in upland areas. 

The results of recent research into the state of farming on Dartmoor, has revealed that the SPS has been causing many previously profitable farms to be facing the prospect of going out of business. 

Case studies were carried out on two Dartmoor farms which had been “profitable, secure and able to invest”, according to independent advisor John Usher, who carried out the reports for Business Link.  

After single farm payments were introduced he reported that “their prospects now look pretty dire”.  

Before the SPS was introduced, upland farmers were compensated for the poor fertility rate of the soil, and harsh climate, he said. These payments made up over 60% of the farms’ outputs, but now these factors were ignored. 

“Instead of compensating severely disadvantaged farms for the lower profit potential, they are penalised”, said Mr Usher. 

“Environmental benefits, which used to be a by-product of the support system, must now be seen as an added cost and any loss of production fully compensated.  

“Stock should be regarded as ‘environmental’ animals that receive an income for the benefit they provide for the environment and, ultimately, the public.” 

One of the case studies was Colin Friend who keeps 80 beef cattle and 600 ewes, and saw his income almost halve in 2005 when single farm payments were introduced.  

The government is now considering the future of environmental payments such as the Hill Farm Allowance – worth just over £30,000 to his business. 

‘If they don’t want the countryside, then fair enough, but I’m not going to look after it for nothing’, said Mr Friend.