Grassland farmers may miss out on ELS cash

FARMERS SIGNED up to environmentally sensitive area agreements (ESAs) could lose out on significant amounts of cash following the introduction of the Entry Level Scheme, says one rural consultant.

Peter Corp of Strutt & Parker’s Salisbury office said some could be up to £22/ha (£9/acre) worse off, despite DEFRA promising that they  would not be financially disadvantaged when entering the scheme.

Mr Corp said some basic ESA grassland options currently paid only £8/ha (£3/acre), compared with the £30/ha (£12/acre) that would be available if they were allowed to enter an ELS agreement.

Farmers managing tens of thousands of hectares on the South Wessex Downs and in the Cotswolds stood to be particularly affected, he said.

Many had only just signed up to the 10-year ESA agreements and the first opportunity to opt out would be to implement a break clause in five years, he added.

“People need to lobby DEFRA.”