August 14, 2008
Farming: North MP Urges a Fair Deal for Hill Farmers
A NORTH MP has called for Defra to give farmers a fair deal, after the department announced its proposal to hold an informal consultation for the new Uplands Entry Level Stewardship scheme.
The ELS is set to replace the Hill Farmers Allowance - which provides farmers with compensation - with a new system designed to reward hill farmers for the environmental and landscape benefits they deliver.
The chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming, Tim Farron MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, has called on Defra to include Cumbria within the informal testing, which will take place across 60 hill farms around the country to ascertain if the scheme is open and accessible to all farmers.
Mr Farron has reiterated his call for hill farmers to be given proper support, by asking Defra to increase funding levels from the pounds 23m currently provided by the Hill Farming Allowance scheme. He has also asked Defra to guarantee that the new scheme will not exclude anyone who currently receives the Hill Farming Allowance.
He said: "Cumbrian hill farming plays a vital role in the UK's beef and sheep industries and I am hopeful that Defra will include them in the informal consultation.
"Defra needs to be a supporter of hill farming. Hill farmers are living off a miserable subsistence and are unable to get fair prices for their products. Raising funding from its current level of a paltry pounds 23m is a must.
"Hill farming is undergoing a period of great transition and any new scheme must allow hill farmers to access future funding." Mr Farron added: "It's time Defra acted and gave hill farmers the fair deal they deserve."
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