ARCHIVE: Upland support in the future: Frequently Asked Questions
Objectives and Structure
- What is Uplands ELS?
- How did you develop Uplands ELS?
- How will Uplands ELS work?
- What will Uplands ELS deliver?
- How will Uplands ELS relate to the existing Environmental Stewardship schemes?
- How many farmers do you want or expect to go in to Uplands ELS?
- How will you help farmers to enter Uplands ELS, if they are finding it too complex?
- What changes have you made to Uplands ELS since it was tested?
- How will you know if Uplands ELS is working?
- How will you manage the transition between the HFA and Uplands ELS?
- How will Uplands ELS affect farmers in ESA and Countryside Stewardship agreements?
- How much money will go in to Uplands ELS?
- What are the payment rates for Uplands ELS?
- Will there be a payment cap or taper, like the HFA?
Detail of Uplands ELS
- What will farmers need to do to enter Uplands ELS?
- What are the specific options and requirements?
- How long will Uplands ELS agreements last?
- How will you ensure that the farmer doing the work gets the money?
- How will Uplands ELS help the uplands landscape?
- Will farmers be able to get payment for capital works – such as restoring dry stone walls – in Uplands ELS?
- How will Uplands ELS work on common land?
- Why will farmers need to be in ELS in order to access Uplands ELS? Will this also apply to commons?
Wider Uplands support
- Why is specific funding provided for the uplands?
- Why not keep the Hill Farm Allowance (HFA)?
- Will Uplands ELS ensure that hill farmers have a sustainable future?
Objectives and Structure
Uplands ELS is a new strand of Environmental Stewardship, designed specifically for upland farmers. It combines existing Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) with a new uplands strand. Unlike the HFA – which excluded dairy farmers and those with very small holdings – Uplands ELS will be open to all farmers and land managers in England’s ‘Severely Disadvantaged Areas’ (SDAs), providing they meet the rules.
Stakeholders have been heavily involved in the development of Uplands ELS. The NFU, TFA, CLA, RSPB, English National Parks Authorities Association, FWAG, National Trust, English Heritage and the Environment Agency were all represented on our advisory groups, and Natural England have played a major role throughout. We also used a Hill Farmer’s Panel, facilitated by the NFU, to advise on the practicality of the proposals. More recently, we held a series of meetings with hill farmers throughout England, tested the draft proposals on 66 farms and issued an informal consultation document for stakeholders.
Uplands ELS will reward upland farmers for the provision and maintenance of landscape and environmental benefits. It will be an additional and supplementary strand to ELS, open to all upland farmers and land managers in England’s “severely disadvantaged areas” (providing they meet the scheme rules). A higher payment rate will recognise the additional costs of farming in the uplands.
Like ELS, farmers will need to obtain points by meeting a series of requirements and through selecting from a menu of land management options.
Hill farmers are vital custodians of the upland countryside and play a crucial role in the delivery of environmental and landscape benefits. Uplands ELS will reward them for the delivery of these environmental and landscape benefits, by rewarding existing good practice as well as encouraging positive change. This allows us to explicitly reward the sustainable extensive hill farming systems that have helped create our much-loved uplands.
By encouraging farmers to carry out simple yet effective environmental management, Uplands ELS will maintain and improve the biodiversity, natural resources, landscape and historical values of the uplands, and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It will do so working alongside the other strands of Environmental Stewardship (ELS, OELS and Higher Level Stewardship).
To access Uplands ELS, farmers will need to be in, or to enter, ELS. Farmers will be able to enter ELS on their own if they wish, but Uplands ELS has a much higher payment rate (see table below). Uplands ELS will also be available as a further strand in the same way for those in Organic ELS. Higher Level Stewardship will continue to be available in the uplands, alongside Uplands ELS.
We need landscape-scale coverage of Uplands ELS to achieve our objectives, and hope to see around 80% of the SDA area in Uplands ELS. Uplands ELS has been developed to be attractive and practical for hill farmers in order to achieve this, while also delivering environmental and landscape benefits.
We will significantly enhance the level of advice provided to farmers to help them enter Uplands ELS, beyond that which is already provided through ELS. Defra and Natural England will announce further details in 2009.
We have made key changes to the technical detail of Uplands ELS to make it more practical for farmers. This includes greater recognition of the costs of maintaining dry stone walls and keeping cattle in the uplands, allowing more flexible arrangements for supplementary feeding on moorland and the management of no-input strips alongside watercourses. We have also added new options to increase farmers’ flexibility. We believe the final design achieves the right balance between being practical for farmers and beneficial for the uplands environment.
We will keep the scheme under review and will monitor the longer term benefits of all agri-environment schemes in the uplands. We will review the uptake and administration of Uplands ELS before the end of the current rural development programme in 2013, looking particularly at the impact on groups such as tenant farmers and commoners.
We are putting in place arrangements to help smooth farmers’ transition from the HFA to Uplands ELS. By extending the HFA to 2010, and allowing Uplands ELS agreements to start from 1 July 2010, the impact on farmers’ cash flow will be significantly reduced. Those farmers who enter Uplands ELS as soon as it starts will only face a gap of around 10 months between their final HFA payment (in March 2010) and their first Uplands ELS payment (in January 2011). The July start date for Uplands ELS will also provide farmers with more time to understand the new scheme and how it will fit on their farm.
Defra will also provide a transitional payment from 2011 for farmers who farm land still under a Countryside Stewardship or ESA agreement, providing they received the HFA in 2010 on that land, and meet the other eligibility conditions. Due to double-funding rules, land in a Countryside Stewardship or ESA agreement cannot be entered into Uplands ELS. The transitional payment will ensure that farmers who previously received the HFA, but cannot enter land into Uplands ELS because it is under a Countryside Stewardship or ESA agreement, will not miss out on specific uplands support when the HFA ends in 2010. In this way, it will ensure that early-adopters of agri-environment are not disadvantaged by the move from the HFA to Uplands ELS.
The farmer will not have to be the agreement holder of the Countryside Stewardship or ESA agreement to qualify for the transitional payment, but the land in question will have to be ‘available’ to them, as currently defined under the HFA. This means that in a situation where a tenant farmer, or a farmer with a short-term let, grazes land that is under an ESA or CSS agreement held by the landlord, we would expect the tenant farmer rather than the landlord to be eligible for the transitional payment, provided they received the HFA on that land in 2010 and meet all the other eligibility conditions.
This payment will be broadly similar to the HFA (including a taper above 350ha and a cap at 700ha). It will be paid on all eligible SDA land on the affected holding –– even if only part of the SDA land in the holding is covered by an ESA or CSS agreement. It will however exclude common land unless that land is also in an ESA or CSS agreement.
We are making around almost £31 million/year available for Uplands ELS from the existing Rural Development Programme budget, if all upland farmers enter the scheme. Based on our estimated uptake of at least 80%, the amount of funding being provided through Uplands ELS will be over £25 million per year, higher than under the HFA (at £23.7 million/year). And, unlike the HFA, all farmers will be eligible to receive Uplands ELS, in return for the environmental benefits they sign up to deliver. In addition, a significant amount of new Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) funding will go to uplands farmers. 80% of the uplands has been identified by Natural England as a target area for HLS.
Upland farmers can enter either ELS or Uplands ELS, however the payment rate will be much higher under Uplands ELS in recognition of the specific benefits it will deliver in the uplands. The payment rates are as follows:
New Uplands ELS
SDA moorland parcels 15ha or larger
SDA moorland parcels smaller than 15ha
SDA land below the moorland line
No cap or taper will be applied to the Uplands ELS payment rate, nor will we apply a minimum farm size. This decision is consistent with the approach taken under Environmental Stewardship more generally, whereby payment is made for every hectare of land under agreement, regardless of farm size.
We are now seeking the approval of the European Commission for these changes because Uplands ELS involves changing the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). Natural England will be promoting Uplands ELS on a regional basis from spring 2009 onwards.
Final HFA payments will be made at the usual time in 2010. Natural England will be able to provide Uplands ELS application packs on request from early in 2010. Farmers will be able to have an Uplands ELS agreement starting from 1 July 2010. Payments will be made on the same basis as our other Environmental Stewardship schemes, whereby half the annual payment is made six months after the start date and the remaining amount is paid on the anniversary of the agreement.
Detail of Uplands ELS
Like ELS, farmers will need to meet a points threshold, based on the size of their farm and land type. They will obtain points by meeting a series of requirements and selecting from a menu of land management options. Farmers can choose from any of the new options designed for Uplands ELS or any existing ELS options. The number of points a farmer earns is equivalent to the number of pounds that will be paid under Uplands ELS.
A list of the options and requirements, which links to the detailed description is available.
Five years. It is an EU requirement that all agri-environment agreements last a minimum of five years.
Like other Environmental Stewardship schemes, Uplands ELS will be targeted at land managers for the delivery of environmental and landscape benefits.
Farmers with tenancy arrangements of less than 5 years will be able to enter Uplands ELS, providing their landlord countersigns the application. This is necessary under EU rules to ensure we achieve the environmental benefits for the full length of the agri-environment commitment. The majority of farmers will not be affected by this (because they farm their own land or have tenancy arrangements lasting for 5 years or more).
Uplands ELS explicitly recognises the importance of the active grazier, and we therefore see the involvement of these tenant farmers as essential to delivering the benefits that we are seeking – for example, by keeping a minimum level of stock on moorland. It is the Government’s firm view that the role of the grazier should therefore be fully recognised when landowners and tenants reach agreement on entering Uplands ELS. We will continue to work with the NFU, TFA and CLA to find ways to maximise uptake of Uplands ELS, including by farmers with tenancy arrangements of less than 5 years.
In recognition of the importance of the upland landscape, we have included options in Uplands ELS that allow for limited capital works – for example, the restoration of stone walls, stone hedge banks and earth banks. This is the first time capital works have been included in an Entry Level scheme. We have not provided a separate capital grants scheme, in direct response to stakeholders’ concerns about the impact this would have on the remaining funding. This will work alongside HLS, through which farmers can obtain grants for capital works.
22. Will farmers be able to get payment for capital works – such as restoring dry stone walls – in Uplands ELS?
We will provide for limited capital works through options in Uplands ELS. This reflects the importance and value of the uplands landscape, which is reflected in our objectives for Uplands ELS. The capital works included under Uplands ELS have been carefully limited to those that can be delivered without the need for site-specific advice. We have also put in place a maximum distance, to ensure that Uplands ELS agreements are appropriately balanced with other land management options.
Common land covers 18% (approx. 300,000 ha) of the area eligible for Uplands ELS, and so it is crucial that the scheme delivers on this land. One Uplands ELS agreement will apply to the entire common (or group of commons or shared grazing). This means that commons will receive payment for every hectare of that common in the agreement, which in many cases will be greater than the total of the individual commoners’ HFA payment for that land. We will provide a supplementary payment of £5/hectare/year to recognise the additional costs involved for commoners and landowners in reaching agreement. We will also issue clear guidance stressing the critical role played by the active commoner in delivering the environmental and landscape benefits we are seeking through Uplands ELS.
24. Why will farmers need to be in ELS in order to access Uplands ELS? Will this also apply to commons?
Uplands ELS is a supplementary strand to ELS, rather than a stand alone scheme, and has been specifically designed to sit alongside ELS to enhance the public benefits delivered. Therefore farmers will need to either already be in ELS, or go in to ELS when they enter Uplands ELS. This will apply to commons in the same way as all other land entered into Uplands ELS.
Wider uplands support
The English uplands are internationally recognised for their biodiversity and as a highly valued part of our natural heritage. They deliver significant ecosystem services including recreation, climate change mitigation & adaptation, food & livestock production, water quality and flood mitigation. Upland farmers and land managers have played a crucial role in this, and the Government has committed to rewarding them for the delivery of environmental and landscape benefits not provided by the market.
The HFA is not directly linked to the delivery of public benefits. Through Uplands ELS, we will target funding towards specific environmental and landscape benefits, providing enhanced value for money for the taxpayer, while explicitly recognising the crucial role that farmers play in the uplands. The Government announced its intention to end the HFA in 2006.
Uplands ELS is only one part of the wider picture, and is not intended to be the solution to all problems relating to hill farming. Upland farmers receive greater direct funding from other sources: from the Single Payment scheme and other agri-environment schemes. Uplands communities also benefit from other funding delivered by the the Regional Development Agencies under the Rural Development Programme for England.
We recognise the wider benefits arising from hill farming – but the viability of upland farming is not something that Defra alone can solve. There is also a greater role for the regional bodies and local initiatives (e.g. to work with the local market to encourage local support).
While we rely on the market place to produce a competitive industry, Government can assist by supporting those public benefits that the market does not – as well as by improving skills, ensuring better regulation, reforming the CAP etc.
The role of agri-environment schemes is therefore to support those environmental and landscape benefits that are not rewarded by the market. This is reflected in the fact that Environmental Stewardship has been put at the heart of the RDPE – with a significant budget allocated to it – and by the development of a specific scheme for the uplands.
Page last modified:
23 November, 2009
Page published: 21 July 2008