A CALL for the Government to rethink plans to axe direct payments to farmers has been backed by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron.

The National Farmers’ Union wants ministers to amend the Agriculture Bill which would see direct payments cut over a seven-year period.

Mr Farron, who is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming, joined the NFU in challenging the ‘agricultural transition’, which is due to begin in 2021 and end in 2027.

The Bill, which completed its ‘report stage’ in the House of Commons in November last year, has been on pause while the Government continues with efforts to pass the Prime Minister’s Brexit divorce deal.

Last week, the NFU’s Brexit director, Nick von Westenholz, said that the timeline for phasing out the payments might no longer be realistic given the Bill’s hold-up

Mr Farron said: “Direct payments are a lifeline for many farmers and removing them would be a body blow to the industry.

“There’s already a huge amount of crippling uncertainty caused by the possibility of a no deal Brexit, but these plans look likely to lead to a slow attrition of family farming in places like Cumbria.

“It is absolutely right for the NFU to be calling for the Government to think again.”

The NFU has warned that, whatever the final outcome of Brexit, European Union regulations will make a difference to how UK farmers operate.

This will either be directly through a need for the UK to continue to follow or mirror rules, or indirectly, through the need to have market access for the country’s agri-food products in the rest of Europe. And of course, until the UK ceases to be a member, all rules and decisions – on pesticides, water quality, food safety standards or countless other areas – apply in full.