2013-11-22   facebooktwitterrss
Act Now To Secure Replacement Agri-Environment Scheme

Upland farmers whose Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) agreements are due to end next year are being urged to act now, or they could miss the start of the replacement scheme – which itself will close to new applicants in 2014.

An estimated 200 farmers in the Lake District are currently signed up to ESA schemes which will end in April next year. The scheme, which has run for 20 years, provided hill farmers with valuable income in return for conservation work to retain the traditional upland landscape.

David Morley

David Morley

However, only around a third of the area’s ESA farmers have been asked by Natural England if they want to join Higher Level Stewardship agreements. The rest will be given the opportunity to sign up to the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (UELS) instead.

H&H Land and Property in Carlisle has so far provided professional advice to help more than 160 farmers to access the UELS. But time is now of the essence; those who are eligible to join but do not complete their applications within the next few weeks could find themselves waiting until 2015 before they receive any payments from the agri-environment scheme.

H&H Land and Property environmental advisor Mike Dyke said: “To be sure of getting a UELS agreement starting on 1st May 2014, farmers need to make an application before the end of January next year at the very latest.

“If you apply later, you’re likely to end up with an agreement that won’t start until the second half of the year, so you won’t receive any UELS money until 2015. My advice is to sit down over the next few weeks and sort out your application before Christmas, and certainly before the end of January at the very latest.”

UELS is a relatively straightforward points-based scheme which lasts for five years and provides payments of £62 per hectare on Severely Disadvantaged Area (SDA) land and £23 per hectare on moorland parcels larger than 15 hectares. But it will be closed to new applicants from 2014, so this is the last chance for eligible upland farmers to secure this important income stream.

Mr Dyke said: “As long as the points target can be reached, acceptance into the scheme is guaranteed. Most upland farms can access the UELS scheme without needing to change their existing management and there is generally more flexibility than under the old ESA scheme.

“However, I would strongly recommend that any upland farmers considering joining the UELS scheme should seek professional advice, to ensure the options they choose will fit best with their farming business and help to maximise their returns.”

Mr Dyke and fellow H&H Land and Property Environmental Advisor David Morley are able to provide impartial professional guidance on all parts of the UELS scheme.

HH Land

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