Influential committee of MPs calls government to show a stronger commitment to hill farming and upland rural communities.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Afairs Select Committee made the call in a report Farming in the Uplands published on Wednesday 16 February.

The report calls on ministers to publish a strategy that sets out a clear action plan for the uplands with practical measures to be implemented immediately. It states that increasing hill farm incomes and efficiency should be Defra’s “first priority”.

NFU national upland spokesman Will Cockbain welcomes the report, saying: “There is much we support in the committee’s recommendations. We urge the Defra to act swiftly given the parlous state of many hill farms facing increasing costs this winter. Farming must  be at the heart of any Defra action in the hills, and payments should go to active farmers whose livestock play a key role in environmental management of the uplands. And we also share the committee’s concern that Defra acts to improve profitability as this offers the best chance for family farm succession.

“The report is right to recommend that new markets alongside food are developed. However, these must deliver incomes for those that manage the land and complement our increasingly important role as food producers.

We also support a review of the Uplands Entry Level Scheme (UELS) uptake as the challenges to entry for tenants, especially those on shorter tenancies, and commoners is a major concern for  the NFU. However, we are not in favour of a return to the old headage system which was bureaucratic and distanced the farmer from the market place”.

A full copy of the document, Farming in the Uplands, or a summarised version can be downloaded by clicking below: