2,000 farmers sign up for Uplands ELSMore than 2,000 hill farmers have now signed up for the new Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (Uplands ELS) scheme, which will earn them 35,000 on average over the course of their agreement, according to Natural Englands figures.
Just four weeks after Uplands ELS went live on 1 July the applications account for around 295,000 hectares of Englands most celebrated upland landscapes from the Lake District and Northumberland down to Dartmoor and Exmoor. Natural England is well on track towards meeting its year-end target of bringing 505,000 ha of land into Uplands ELS by March 2011.
Uplands ELS, which supports hill farmers with payments of up to 62 per hectare, replaces the Hill Farm Allowance (HFA) which ended this year.
One farmer, Ernie Cornish, of Middle Brown Farm in Huish Champflower, near Taunton, Somerset, was pleasantly surprised to find that his payments under Uplands ELS would be almost double those he received from HFA. As someone with a natural mistrust of paperwork, Mr Cornish had previously avoided agri-environment schemes until a neighbour suggested Uplands ELS. After attending a Natural England farm event and receiving a follow-up visit from an adviser, Mr Cornish entered his farm into Uplands ELS and will benefit from 12,000 over five years. As part of his agreement he chose maintenance of traditional farm buildings and permanent grassland options which complement his 40 ha beef and sheep unit. These options will run alongside the standard scheme requirements for upland grassland and completion of a farm environment record map.
I had been wondering whether to bother applying for Uplands ELS but now Im really glad that I did, said Mr Cornish, who was born on the farm in the 1930s. The payments will provide a valuable additional income stream to support the farm business.
Robin Tucker, Natural Englands Executive Director for National Delivery, said: Im delighted that farmers like Mr Cornish, whose hard work produces both great food and the uplands landscapes we all love, are supported in their efforts by Uplands ELS. Mr Cornishs story shows just how straightforward and worthwhile it can be to enter Uplands ELS, even for a small farm. We have advisers waiting to give hill farmers free advice and support with their applications, and wed urge anyone interested in Uplands ELS to contact us.
The initial level of applications for Uplands ELS is highly encouraging and we look forward to continuing to work closely with hill farmers to make sure they receive they all the support we can offer.
Since Uplands ELS was launched in February this year, more than 3,500 farmers have requested information and at least 2,500 have attended farm events up and down the country.
More than 150 agents and advisers recently attended Natural England update sessions on the scheme and there is a wide range of advice available to farmers seeking to join the new scheme. This includes a new Step by Step Guide to Uplands ELS available from Natural Englands website at www.naturalengland.org.uk/uplandsels . For further information or to find out how to apply in your area call 0300 060 0011.
Farmers and advisers will also be on hand to answer any queries at the NSA Sheep Event 2010 on Tue August 3rd at Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcs., which normally attracts more than 10,000 farmers at each event and promises to be one of the key events in the sheep sectors calendar.
The first Uplands ELS agreements began on 1 July. To date Natural England has received around 2,250 applications – covering 295,000 ha more than half of which have already been processed into live agreements. Launched in February 2010, Uplands ELS replaces the Hill Farm Allowance and rewards hill farmers who combine food production with caring for the environment. It provides a standard payment of 62 per hectare every year for 5 years with over 70 options to choose from, including grassland management and restoring farm structures such as barns and stone walls. Free one to one farm visits and a range of farm events are being undertaken by Natural Englands advisers to explain the scheme and support your application. Book a farm visit or event by ringing 0300 060 0011 or for further information on the scheme, visit Natural Englands website at www.naturalengland.org.uk/es .