New ELM support barely noticeable

We noted with a wry smile the polite gratitude expressed by many organisations that Defra has provided us with more detail. It has taken them five years and we still haven’t had the full scheme details yet! What’s more, new support to commons above the Moorland line is barely noticeable.

  • No increase in payment rates for the older Higher Level Stewardship schemes – see table below
  • Many of those who are in the process of extending their HSL for five years are being asked to reduce stocking rates, eroding the revenue from grazing the common.
  • The new payment rates for moorland options in Countryside Stewardship haven’t gone up much.
  • There are a few other CS options and supplements that you can add to common land above the moorland line, but they aren’t up to much unless you want to go down the Higher Tier woodland pasture route, but this is for cattle grazing only.
  • SFI Moorland Standard at £16.45 ha will not leave much money left to distribute to the members once the costs of applying for the scheme and delivery have been subtracted.
  • There will be new SFI Moorland Standards for managing unimproved grassland and peat to slow water flows, restoration and maintenance of peatland. But we don’t know what they are yet.
    Old rate New rate
UP1 Enclosed rough grazing £43.00 £45.00
UP2 Management of rough grazing for birds £110.00 £121.00
UP3 Management of moorland £51.00 £55.00
UP4 Management of moorland vegetation supplement £10.00 £10.00
UP5 Moorland re-wetting supplement £23.00 £25.00
UP6 Upland livestock exclusion supplement £18.00 £19.00

Public goods from common land on the cheap

Defra’s payment rates are based on an income foregone plus costs calculation. Given the hard and fragile conditions experienced in the hills, farming and common grazing is both costly and difficult. As hill farms incomes are lower than other farming systems, inevitably the income forgone calculation means hill farmers receive lower payment rates for producing public goods than arable and lowland farmers.

The verdict

This is grossly unfair. Who says public goods are worth more in the lowlands than the uplands?

Defra is treating hill farmers as second class producers and paying them less. As costs keep rising there may come a time when delivering these scheme in the uplands becomes unaffordable and uptake low.
Defra are missing a massive opportunity to support hill farmers deliver more for nature and climate. Surely the value of biodiversity, carbon, clean water, our most beautiful landscapes, birds and flowers produced in the hills and commons is worth the same as in the lowlands?