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Ageing and on the bread line - Farron calls for support for hill farmers

May 12, 2009 9:21 AM

More support needs to be given to hill farmers according to Liberal Democrat Shadow Defra Secretary Tim Farron who believes hill farming could die out within ten years unless urgent steps are taken to inject new lifeblood into the industry.

Figures uncovered by Mr Farron have revealed that over 15,000 farmers have a yearly farm based income of less than £10,000 - which essentially means that they are earning below the minimum wage. It is thought that the majority of these farmers are likely to be hill farmers, who have been found to have an average age of 59 years old according to information uncovered by Mr Farron.

Mr Farron has called on the Government to implement his Hill Farm Apprenticeship Scheme which aims to provide practical skills to encourage the next generation of British farmers and to increase the amount of funding given to hill farmers through the Upper Entry Level Stewardship scheme.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"Hill farmers are vital to the well-being of their local communities and the management of our environment here in the Lake District and the Dales, yet they remain unappreciated and unrewarded by a market which ignores their role as environmental stewards of the countryside.

"Without hill farmers, much of the beautiful British countryside which we take for granted would very quickly become unkempt, inaccessible and poorly maintained. It's therefore crucial we pass on the vital skills and knowledge of hill farming to the next generation.

"From the discussions I've had with the upland farmers in South Lakeland, I'd estimate that the average income of a hill farmer is around £8,000 and that up to 85% have no line of succession in place to take over the business when they retire.

"Investing more money into the Upland Entry Level Stewardship scheme and establishing my Hill Farm Apprenticeship Scheme will make it easier for new hill farmers to get into the industry while ensuring they are rewarded for their role as stewards of the countryside.

1. Answers to Parliamentary Questions tabled by Tim Farron MP