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Farron calls for Uplands to be made a priority after hill farm support scheme fails to attract farmers

May 25, 2010 12:00 AM

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has called on the new coalition Government to make the uplands a priority after the Tenant Farmers Association revealed that 90% of hill farmers who previously received Hill Farm Allowance (HFA) payments have not signed up to its successor scheme.

The TFA said figures it has obtained from Natural England, which administers the scheme, show only 886 farmers have applied to join so far, less than 10 per cent of the 9,408 farmers eligible for it.

The figures show 2,488 application packs have been issued but the TFA said even this represents only 38 per cent of the total in comparison to the previous Government's original goal of achieving an 80 per cent uptake for the scheme.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"These figures just reinforce what we already knew, which is that the last Government simply didn't do a good enough job telling farmers that the Hill Farmers Allowance has been axed and that the Uplands Entry Level Scheme is up and running.

It's clear that the complexity of the scheme and the fact that many tenant farmers have tenancies of less than five years has also added to the problems of processing claims.

"Caroline Spellman's desk will already be piled high with problems inherited as a result of Labour's mismanagement of the countryside-but for upland farmers the need for an effective replacement for the HFA is without doubt the most pressing.

"Given that the annual income for a hill farmer can be as little as £5,000 a year, its vital that the new coalition Government make improving the administration of the Uplands Entry Level Scheme a priority."