Federation supports moving money up the hill

The Federation has sent a letter to the Editor of the Farmers Guardian defending Defra plans to move CAP money uphill.

The letter was in response to an article that appeared last week's Farmers Guardian outlining the fact that the NFU is suggesting that proposed 82.3 per cent increase in the moorland rate is ‘disproportionately large. The NFU goes on to say

“If a substantial increase in moorland rates is to be contemplated, it would only be acceptable to the NFU if a robust agricultural activity test is applied in this region,” the NFU’s response said, a reference to concerns that payments can end up in the hands of large landowners who use moorland predominantly for grouse shooting.

“The NFU is not convinced that this will be achievable. If that is the case there is a severe risk that much of the extra money would leak outside the farming sector.”

The Federation is disappointed and concerned that the NFU is taking this stance.

Below is a copy of the letter we sent to the editor:

Alistair Driver’s article highlighting the NFU’s reluctance to give wholehearted support to ‘moving the money up the hill’ is both disappointing and concerning to hill farmers, many of whom are NFU members. 

Yes, Defra’s proposals may result in a potential 82% rise in Pillar 1 payment above the Moorland line should Defra choose to implement this option. But the huge percentage loss to the Moorland region by the withdrawal of UELS has not been widely reported.  UELS was the replacement for the earlier HFA and HLCA which were widely held to be essential in underpinning farm viability in the uplands.

Last year a hectare of common land above the Moorland line received just over £29 single payment and £28 UELS. Defra’s Option 2 is proposing a single payment increase of €25. This will bring the payment up to around three quarters of what we received last year. So what are hill farmers getting? A real loss in income and the potential for an unnecessary division between upland and lowland livestock farmers, both of whom are at the bottom end of the profitability scale.

We are told that the NFU would like to see “a robust agricultural activity test " applied to the moorland in case this money leaks out of farming. Given that the Moorland region of England is approximately 8.5% of the land mass yet receives only approximately 1% of single payment, this does seem disproportionate. How confident are the NFU that large amounts of money does not leak out of farming in the lowland?

Yours faithfully,

Dave Smith, Hill farmer and Chairman of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners.