Hill farmers are earning as little as £1.60 an hour according to figures uncovered by Shadow Defra Secretary Tim Farron MP, who believes that hill farming could die out within a decade unless the Government takes "urgent steps" to inject new lifeblood into the industry.
A question tabled by Mr Farron in parliament revealed that the average hill farming income for last year was just £5,000. With most hill farmers working on average 60 hours a week, this works out at just £1.60 per hour. This is £4.20 less than the national minimum wage.
Last year's figures represent a 72% decline in earnings from 2002 when hill farmers were paid an average of £17,700 a year. Mr Farron is urging the Government to increase the amount of funding given to hill farmers through the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship scheme to ensure our uplands are not lost forever.
Commenting Mr Farron said:
"These shocking figures show the dire situation that many British farmers are facing. There is a risk that huge numbers simply won't be able to carry on.
"The average hill farmer is now earning less per hour than a part time student stacking shelves at a supermarket.
"It's likely that the income of hill farmers is even lower than these figures, as these wouldn't include unpaid work carried out by other members of the family.
"If we continue down this present road, we could find that hill farming dies out within the decade. That is why the Government must take urgent steps to invest more money into the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship scheme to ensure hill farmers remain the foundation on which to build a sustainable upland environment. We must also invest in a new hill farming apprenticeship scheme."
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