19/12/2008

New Funding To Help Hill Farmers Protect Historic Uplands

A new payment scheme that will reward hill farmers for protecting and enhancing the landscapes and environment of England's iconic uplands was announced by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today.

The Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (Uplands ELS) will replace the Hill Farm Allowance, and is designed to ensure that farmers are supported and rewarded in their efforts to maintain England's historic upland landscape, such as the Cumbrian Fells, Dartmoor and the Peak District.

Through the scheme, hill farmers will be rewarded for maintaining the biodiversity and natural resources of the area, which helps support the effort to fight and adapt to climate change, and for maintaining iconic features of the landscape such as dry stone walls and stone-faced hedge banks.

Defra is prepared to make available up to £31 million within the existing Rural Development Programme budget to fund uptake of Uplands ELS.

Hill Farmers are also eligible for other Environmental Stewardship schemes such as Higher Level Stewardship, Entry Level Stewardship and Organic ELS. They also receive the Single Payment.

Mr Benn said: "The uplands are absolutely fundamental to the English countryside. So much of our history, our art, our literature and our sense of identity are tied up in these glorious landscapes, and it is right that we should ensure that farmers are rewarded for looking after them.

"Following consultation and trials of the scheme over the summer, we have made a number of changes to respond to what farmers said to us."

To qualify for the Uplands ELS, farmers will have to meet a points threshold, adjusted for size of their farm, with points for a wide variety of land management practices including grazing cattle, maintaining dry stone walls, maintaining a minimum level of stock on moorlands, and not using fertiliser or supplementary feed within six metres of a water course.

Natural England is developing an advice programme to help farmers. This advice is likely to be available through a range of formats including workshops, demonstration days, leaflets and working with partner organisations.

(JM/KMcA)

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