A CROSS-party group of rural MPs is calling on Defra to set up an inquiry into hill farmers’ incomes amid uncertainty over the future effect of CAP reform.
They have tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons which claims that many upland farmers are existing on less than the minimum wage.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Hill Farming Group, said the recent CAP reforms had led to increased uncertainty over the future level of marginal farm incomes.
“Average farm incomes are around £12,000 — and that’s often the income for an entire family.
“Because upland farmers are self-employed, the minimum wage doesn’t apply. Such a situation wouldn’t be tolerated if they worked for someone else.”
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Mr Farron said while CAP reform had led to some subsidies being diverted from lowland farms to hill and moor-land farms, the changes had left the future ‘unclear’.
“Although upland farm incomes have risen since 2009, when they were around £5,000, they are still very low. We need Defra to launch a full review of the situation to see how we can help these farmers.”
The full text of the EDM reads: “That this House celebrates the immense value to the country in terms of biodiversity, food production, water management and landscape protection of our hill farmers; expresses its gratitude to the stewards of the uplands; notes that many upland farmers exist on an income that is less than the minimum wage; further notes that recent research by the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University showed many upland farms in the Lake District and Northumberland National Parks were making a loss, with considerable reliance on agri-environment and direct payments; is determined to ensure that changes to the Common Agricultural Payment (CAP) do not cause incomes for upland farmers to fall further; and calls on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to undertake a review on levels of income for upland farmers, so that the necessary changes can be made to keep upland farming sustainable.”