Reporting on Uplands Policy Review
Following today’s Government announcement of a £26m package to secure the future of Upland Farming in England, Andrew Entwistle, Partner at George F. White offers his initial reaction:
“There was not so much rejoicing but a glimmer of hope for Upland Hill Farmers when the coalition published their manifesto and mentioned that they would provide more support for Hill Farmers. This presumably has led to the Uplands Policy Review that was released with announcements from Caroline Spelman Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today. You could also forgive the average Hill Farmer for being disappointed as there is very little detail, but I suppose that could be expected from something that is merely a Policy Review. The document is certainly interesting and it does provide a useful summary of all the challenges and problems upland communities have. It does not appear to provide any particularly innovative solutions. The Government have made some significant undertakings to provide an upland strand into the RDPE and make helpful noises that they wish to help Hill Farmers to develop their skills, even expand and concentrate in making a living out of delivery of public goods, which Hill Farmers have been delivering as a by-product of agricultural management for centuries.
DEFFRA has announced an easy target to provide better broad band coverage, a target that is easy to state and measure.
Meanwhile the Uplands are still left in limbo and rely heavily on environmental schemes and Single Payment Scheme which remain complicated and late. The Rural Payments Agency for example has still not managed to interpret Common Land correctly and for the last two years have been asking Hill Farmers to pay monies back on the basis that they miscalculated in the early years of Single Payment Scheme. The direct support Upland Farming Businesses is essential and whilst the Uplands Policy Review sentiment is commendable, the first major step in delivering benefit to the Uplands would be for DEFFRA to get RPA working correctly so that Hill Farmers can concentrate on improving their businesses instead of being distracted by late and unclear payments having a detrimental effect on their bottom line cash flows.”