Over 400 upland farmers sign petition calling for more support

Cumbrian farmer James Robinson has accused Defra of 'overlooking' upland areas
Cumbrian farmer James Robinson has accused Defra of 'overlooking' upland areas

Hundreds of farmers have signed a petition demanding more support for upland areas as many have been 'left behind' from land management schemes.

Cumbrian farmer James Robinson has penned an angry open letter to Defra, accusing policymakers of 'overlooking' upland areas and leaving farmers without adequate financial backing to deliver nature outcomes.

Mr Robinson said Defra's new policy was 'not helping' upland farmers, with far fewer of them being able to access higher tier agreements than previous years.

Mr Robinson, who is vice chair of the England steering group at the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), said successful applications to these schemes had plunged by 80% in the space of a decade.

He has now taken the step of publicly criticising politicians for the way farms are being supported and is demanding a 'comprehensive financial package' that will enable farmers to transition.

Over 400 farmers have signed his petition within the first 24 hours of it going online.

Mr Robinson said: “The uplands are being overlooked despite the government’s bold claims to offer more support for nature-friendly farming. In areas like mine up here in Cumbria, many have been left behind.

"Many farmers I know who have applied to these schemes this year with an appetite to do more for nature on their land have been denied access, and there are loads more who haven’t even bothered applying because they were expecting to be rejected.

“Enough is enough. We need schemes that will actually support farmers, help finance a farming transition and reward ambitious nature-friendly land management.”

Mr Robinson believes upland and marginal farms can potentially make a difference when it comes to boosting nature, combatting biodiversity loss and tackling climate change.

In his letter, he told Defra Secretary Thérèse Coffey that the higher tier schemes offered a decent level of payments coupled with flexibility and advice.

Together, he said this was “crucial in securing the highest quality environmental outcomes from our land.”

But he said farmers who missed out on payments were “bitterly disappointed”, a situation he describes as “unacceptable” as it risked putting farms in upland areas and on marginal land out of business.

The open letter demands Defra to enable increased access to land management schemes such as the Higher Tier of Countryside Stewardship and Landscape Recovery.

Defra must allow a minimum of 3,000 agreements to be created per year, it states, while putting in place more support for farmers so they can deliver the best outcomes for their land.