Farmer Focus Livestock: Expansion is on the cards for Mathew Cole

We are about to expand our farm at Princetown. Having done the deal with the landlord and factored all the various payments available for this extensive hill farm in the middle of Dartmoor we look forward to taking the land on in the next few weeks.

As an expanding holding in an upland area, we didn’t expect to be put at a disadvantage by the new schemes set to replace the Hill Farm Allowance (HFA), namely the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship Scheme (UELS) and, more importantly, the Uplands Transitional Payment (UTP).

We still hold an ESA agreement with four years to run and we are only eligible for UTP, but our area for UTP is capped at last year’s HFA area claim. The new area of land will not get any payment until the end of our ESA agreement. Anyone who expands their holding in an uplands area who holds an ESA agreement will not receive UTP payments for the new area of land, putting farmers looking to expand at a severe disadvantage. It’s crazy that this land received HFA last year, but by changing hands it will not receive any equivalent support.

It also doesn’t help when you are claiming UTP you don’t have a clue what it is going to be worth until the cheque arrives.

It appears the RPA has replaced a perfectly good and easy-to-administer scheme with a complicated minefield. A more cynical man than me may think it is just trying to save a few quid at the expense of the uplands!

Now that’s off my chest I had better get back to the lambing.

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