The Uplands Alliance has brought together over 100 hill farmers with Defra staff to explore how farmers can create a brighter future for their businesses and the environment. Farmers were keen to stress how many public benefits they already provide and that with appropriate support they can provide more.  They also reminded Defra that these public benefits are delivered alongside producing high quality food and being the glue of rural communities.

Leaving the EU will result in the biggest change for seventy years in how farmers are supported. No longer will farmers be paid to farm but instead they will be paid to provide public benefits which are not paid for “at the till” including biodiversity, carbon storage, clean water and heritage landscapes. This new scheme is called the Environmental Land Management Scheme. 

The meetings were facilitated by the Uplands Alliance with funding from the Prince’s Countryside Fund. In each of nine areas we brought together 12-20 farmers to meet with Defra staff. Meetings were held in Bodmin, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Shropshire, Peak District, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham and the South Pennines. AHDB also attended three of the meetings.

Our report released this week highlights the key findings of these meetings and include:

  • Long term schemes (~25 years) would allow business planning and delivery of environmental benefits
  • Payment rates need to be sufficient to ensure business viability and should pay for delivery of existing good practice as well as improvements
  • There should be a flexible approach to delivery focusing on outcomes not prescriptions
  • Forms that can be filled in by the farmer will result in a higher commitment to delivering outcomes
  • Local advisors are needed to support application and delivery
  • Monitoring and verification of outcomes should be built into the scheme  

The Uplands Alliance continues to be actively working with Defra in developing the ELM scheme and testing new policies and schemes with those who will be delivering them. 

The full report and the meeting notes from each local meeting are available to download below