Defra announces payment uplift for upland farms under ELM schemes

Upland farmers will now benefit from improved access to the UK's post-Brexit agricultural support schemes
Upland farmers will now benefit from improved access to the UK's post-Brexit agricultural support schemes

Defra has announced a payment uplift for upland farms under the UK's new Environment Land Management (ELM) schemes following months of industry lobbying.

The move, announced on Friday (26 May), means payment rates are equal for both upland and lowland farms where they are carrying out the same actions.

Paying farmers for low inputs on grasslands in upland areas, which previously earned them £98 per hectare, will increase to £151, the same payment farmers elsewhere receive.

At the upper end of the scale, creation of upland wood pasture will increase from £333 per hectare to £544 to align payments for upland and lowland farmers.

There were concerns about upland farmers not getting a fair deal under the government's new ELM schemes.

The NFU and other industry groups have been campaigning for upland farmers to be acknowledged by the government for over 18 months.

The union's vice president David Exwood welcomed the announcement: “We have fought repeatedly for ELMs to be developed in a way that is inclusive and available to every farm business.

"They will receive a huge uplift to the support available under the new schemes which will provide them with the confidence they need to plan for the future.”

Upland farmers can now get paid for more than 130 relevant actions under the Countryside Stewardship (CS) and the Sustainable Farming Inventive (SFI) from 2024.

This will include new moorland and upland peat action, with higher payments for moorlands in good environmental condition.

Upland farmers can extend their Higher Level Stewardship agreements for five years running alongside CS or SFI agreements, allowing them to get paid for more actions and take advantage of price increases.

Farmers in upland areas can also apply for the second round of the Landscape Recovery scheme, which is open to individual or groups of land managers.

NFU uplands forum chair Thomas Binns said today's announcement was a "positive first step".

"[It] now allows us to focus on ensuring moorland and common land are equally recognised in the important contribution to upland farming, the environment and rural communities.

“For many upland farming families, it means we are able to go from firefighting and questioning our role in the future of British farming, to having the confidence and viability to make long-term decisions for our businesses.

"We will now be able to do what we do best; produce high-quality, protein-rich food and manage our most treasured landscapes.”

The announcement today means upland farmers can also apply for upland Wildlife Offers for a range of management options that focus on providing habitats for farm wildlife.

And they can apply for the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme if they are in an AONB, National Park, or the Broads.