Commons get left behind as usual

At end of June, Defra announced parts of the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) Scheme were open for applications. As it turns out, the only scheme relevant to moorland commons, SFI Moorland is not yet available for commons.  If you try to apply online for your common, you get a notice saying, “Defra are initially rolling out applications to BPS eligible farmers who do not have common land.”

RPA computer system not up to scratch

This delay is caused because the Rural Payments Agency computer system can’t distinguish between moorland commons and private fell.  Yet again, RPA is having difficulties fitting commons onto its computer systems.

Drip, drip of information

And it gets worse. Not only is the Introductory SFI Moorland payment rate on offer barely worth bothering with, but also Defra have not given us any detailed information about the Intermediate and Advanced levels of the Moorland Standard. Recently they announced a limited rollout of Local Nature Recovery (LNR) Scheme to begin in 2023, with an emphasis on peat management and restoration for the uplands. It appears there are few options for commons without peat bog.

We haven’t got a clue what to do next

Will Cockbain, in a recent interview on BBC Radio 4, Farming Today compared the lack of clear information to

“…. like being on a roundabout with about 6 exits and you’re going round and round and round and you haven’t got a clue which exit to take. Whichever exit you take may be the wrong one!”

We are two years into the Basic Payment Scheme tapering off and still commoners can’t plan for the future. This is unacceptable.