HUNDREDS of Cumbrian hill farmers are being put off claiming subsidies by red tape or because their landlords do not want them to, a survey has found.

Researchers employed by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron found one in four farmers fail to claim payments they are entitled to because they are put off by the paper work, while one in 10 decline to apply because they say their landlords ‘won’t let them’.

Mr Farron said by not claiming as part of the Upland Entry Level Stewardship Scheme (UELS), the farmers could be missing out on average payments of £3,500 a year. He said it was a significant sum of money when average hill farm incomes were around £12,000 a year.

His researchers estimated between 200 and 300 farmers were not getting the subsidies in Cumbria and north Lancashire - between 20 and 30 of them in South Lakeland.

Hill farmers have some of the lowest incomes in the country - the average hill farmer in 2009 earned just £5,000.

“It’s good to see that most farmers who can benefit from hill farm support have received the payments they deserve, but this research is worrying,” said Mr Farron, who is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming.. “Many hill farmers face serious poverty - it is wrong that many who could benefit from this essential funding are squeezed out by red tape.

“Even worse is the revelation that some hill farmers are prevented by their landlords from applying. In some cases, this could be the difference between a making decent living and bankruptcy.”

“It is definitely happening to a signficant minority of upland farmers,” said Mr Farron. “One in four farmers don’t claim the subsidies because they say there is too much red tape involved in the process.

“Hill farmers are very busy and they can’t always spare the time to fill in the forms. Some farmers, especially the older ones, are often put off by the amount of red tape involved in making a claim under the stewardship scheme.”

“One in 10 who are tenant farmers told us that their landlords were being funny about them claiming. Some landlords don’t want to see environmental changes made to their land, which the farmer carries out to earn payments. Others want to claim the money for themselves.”

The UELS replaced the Hill Farm Allowance in July 2010. To qualify, farmers are required to reach a points target based on the area of their land and a set of specific land management aims.