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Thousands of hill farmers missing grants

[Wednesday 26 May 2010]

Less than one in ten hill farmers are aware of new changes to their special allowances and could face massive financial hits by missing out on the new system.

This is the conclusion of a survey by the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) which showed that only 886 of almost 9,500 farmers eligible for the new Upland ELS grants had applied, not realising that the last Government had scrapped the old the old hill farm allowances.

Says TFA National Vice-Chairman Stephen Wyrill “It is a significant concern that many hill farmers have not yet realised that HFA has been axed. I know this first hand having been in Upper Wharfedale in North Yorkshire over the last weekend where many of the hill farmers I spoke to appeared to be unaware of the change”.

Figures obtained by the TFA from Natural England, the agency responsible for administering UELS, estimate that out of a potential of 9408 applicants only 886 have applied to join the scheme so far - less than 10% of the total.

“This is disastrous and reflects the fact that the message that HFA has been axed is not yet hitting home. I am also sure that the uptake is being affected by the complexity of the scheme,” Mr Wyrill goes on.

"It is clear to me having spent time walking around Upper Wharfedale last weekend that Government policy for the uplands is not working. I have serious concerns that the extent of the decline in livestock numbers, now clearly evident, is having long-term, negative effects on the environment of Upper Wharfedale and similar places.

“This is another fine mess for the new Government to sort out through talking to hill farmers and re-thinking how we approach upland issues.”

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