Third of hill farmers losing out on aid

More than a third of hill farmers in England are losing out on support payments following the government’s decision to replace the Hill Farm Allowance.

The Tenant Farmers Association said farmers in some of the country’s most remote environments had been left without vital financial aid after the HFA was replaced with an uplands version of the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme in 2010.

It said changes to the rules over who could claim for the funding meant 34% of England’s hill farmers had been left out of the new scheme.

In particular, tenants on short-term tenancy agreements and hill farmers without ownership rights to the land they were farming were ineligible to apply for funding.

George Dunn, TFA chief executive, said many hill farmers had been left struggling to ensure their businesses survived thanks to problems associated with the new scheme.

“In some cases it is now the landowner rather than the farmer who is getting the payment,” he said.

“Even when the payments are getting to the farmer the extra scheme requirements are also adding to costs.

“It is very concerning that [government analysis shows] that over a third of previous recipients of Hill Farm Allowance are outside the new scheme arrangements.

“Given the precarious nature of hill farming and the low income associated with it, this is serious.”

Mr Dunn said there needed to be a fundamental review of the way farmers in the uplands were supported.

“The TFA believes that we need to see the development of a new scheme for the long-term benefit of upland areas which will deliver an integrated upland environmental land management scheme with stock rearing at its core,” he added.

“This will mean looking again at rewarding hill farmers for keeping breeding livestock in hill areas for both food security and environmental land management reasons.

“Our hill areas are important national assets but by their very nature they are physically, socially and economically remote.

“Despite the severe natural handicaps encountered by farmers who operate in hill areas, responsibly managed, grazing livestock systems are the best way to ensure the long-term sustainable management of this land.”