DEFRA research has suggested that transferring farm support from lowland to upland areas would create a huge ‘multiplier’ benefit for areas like the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.
Analysis by the agency indicates that for every three euros per hectare of subsidy transferred, 33 euros per hectare of benefit would accrue to hill and moorland farms.
The research findings are being used to strengthen the case for a redistribution of farm support to help preserve a hard pressed and increasingly marginalised farming heritage.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “Redirecting funding to help hard-pressed upland farmers who are living on marginal incomes would also have wider benefits.
“In addition to producing food, the Lake District’s upland farmers help to protect our beautiful landscape and the work they do can prevent flooding problems downstream. The suggested transfer of support is an investment which would reap very tangible benefits for wider society. The farmers who would benefit will put an awful lot of buck back into the economy.”
The research was welcomed by the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), which said increased payments would make ‘a significant difference’ to those farming in the harshest areas of the north.
Douglas Chalmers, CLA North director of policy and public affairs, said: “The Defra analysis confirms that farm business incomes will increase significantly and keep up with earnings growth in the wider economy.
“These benefits will then ripple across greater numbers of upland farms, with significant effects on our environment and remoter communities.
“Our moorlands and uplands are managed environments and many of the farming families and businesses who manage them for us are on a financial knife edge.”
l The Rural Payments Agency has paid out more than £750,000 to upland beef and sheep farmers. The agency has so far made Uplands Transitional Payments for 2014, the final year of the scheme, to 440 farmers – 99 per cent of those who are eligible.