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NFU demands help for hill farmers

14 September 1999
NFU demands help for hill farmers

FARMERS leaders have warned the government that the future of the countryside will be at risk unless urgent action is taken to help Britains embattled hill farmers.…more…

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NFU demands help for hill farmers

14 September 1999
NFU demands help for hill farmers

by Isabel Davies

FARMERS leaders have warned the government that the future of the countryside will be at risk unless urgent action is taken to help Britains embattled hill farmers.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union described hill farmers as “an endangered species” as he launched a review of upland farming yesterday in London.

The whole future of the hills was resting on a knife-edge, he said.

“The future of these hill farmers is bleak, making them one of the most endangered species in the countryside,” he said.

Uplands would revert to scrub unless farmers managed the hills, he said, spelling an end to one of the countrys most valuable tourist attractions — the British landscape.

The NFU forecasts that hill farm incomes are set to fall by 30% on last years already depressed levels to an all-time low in real terms

Union analysts estimate that the average hill-farmer will earn just £5,300 this year in England and even less in Wales.

And these figure assume that the government matches the extra £60 million aid it made available last year in the form of an emergency package.

Farmers were caught in a poverty trap because they did not have the assets to retire, said Mr Gill.

Farmers of retirement age were be forced to carry on farming at a loss because the value of their stock was not enough to support a pension fund.

Peter Allen, chairman of the unions Less Favoured Area Committee, said the government should acknowledge the wider importance of upland farming.

Hill farming created a landscape that generated knock-on incomes and benefits by boosting tourism and the recreation industry, he said.

“It is heartrending that after a lifetime protecting our most precious agricultural assets, hill farmers are finding themselves having to fight for a dignified retirement.

“The government must take this opportunity to ensure that hill farmers are given adequate support.”

Mr Allen said the government should at least match last years support for hill farmers and ensure that payments were made on time.

A few weeks delay could mean the end for some farm businesses.

The sector was facing a worse crisis than last year and it would not be acceptable for the minister to turn around and say he was taking money away, he said.

The report will be used to help in the unions lobbying efforts. It will be presented to MPs and MEPs as part of its annual hill campaign.

The NFU estimates that there are 53,000 full and part time hill farmers

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