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Hill Farming

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 184405, tabled on 20 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of the Agricultural Transition Plan 2021 to 2024 on (a) uplands and (b) hill farming businesses.

Answered on

28 April 2021

I recognise that the uplands and hill farming businesses face specific issues and challenges. That is why we have designed policies to allow for a managed adjustment, a seven-year transition, that will give farmers and land managers, including in upland areas time to adapt to the changes.

We published two assessments, one in 2018 and again in 2019, and we are planning to publish further analysis by autumn this year. This will analyse farm incomes and how these will change between now and 2027.

Our latest preliminary findings are consistent with previous analysis that is publicly available, and we find that uplands farmers are reliant on Direct Payments, to the extent that their Direct Payments make up essentially all of their annual profit or farm business income.

The analysis also shows that there are opportunities for upland farmers. For instance, uplands farmers currently receive a relatively high proportion of their income through environmental land management environment payments. They are therefore well placed to benefit as more public money is provided through such schemes. In designing these schemes, we know that the payment rates need to be attractive to achieve the levels of uptake and environmental outcomes we need to see as well as set at a fair rate.

There is significant potential for upland farmers to reduce costs and improve businesses practices and we are providing grants and targeted resilience support to facilitate that, as well as investing in longer term measures such as research and development. We also anticipate rent adjustments which could benefit upland tenant farmers.