NFU welcomes positive changes to ELMs for uplands farmers

26 May 2023

A sheep relaxing in a field on a hill. In the near distance more sheep are grazing next to a stone wall, and in the far distance are miles of fields and farmland.

Months of campaigning by the NFU calling for the government to recognise the vital role of farming businesses in the uplands, to our food production and the nation’s countryside, has seen Defra announce a positive uplift to Environment Land Management schemes, and improved options under Countryside Stewardship (CS) and the upcoming SFI 2023 offer.

From today, it will mean payment rates in Environmental Land Management schemes are equal for both upland and lowland farms where they are carrying out the same actions, and increased rates for upland farmers in four CS options. 

NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “It is really encouraging to hear government has listened to our concerns about upland farmers not getting a fair deal under the new ELM schemes. This announcement recognises the role hill farmers play in producing our food and looking after some of our most challenging and iconic farming landscapes.

“We have fought repeatedly for ELMs to be developed in a way that is inclusive and available to every farm business. This announcement for upland farmers means they will receive a huge uplift to the support available under the new schemes which will provide them with the confidence they need to plan for the future.”

NFU uplands forum chair Thomas Binns said: “Today’s announcement, which was delivered exclusively to the NFU uplands forum where the Secretary of State (SoS) Thérèse Coffey joined us this week, is the culmination of more than 18 months of dedicated work by the NFU to ensure upland farmers are valued for the food they produce and the public goods they provide. Numerous meetings and farm visits for ministers and the SoS have helped us to demonstrate the public goods upland farmers deliver, in addition to the sustainable food we produce. I thank Defra and the SoS for listening to and acting on our concerns.

“I hope today marks a real turning point in the government’s acknowledgement and understanding of the important role of upland farmers, producing food for the nation in areas which can’t be used for cropping, as well as caring for the countryside, protecting and maintaining important features such as dry-stone walls and hedgerows. It is a positive first step that now allows us to focus on ensuring moorland and common land are equally recognised in the important contribution to upland farming, the environment and rural communities.

“For many upland farming families, it means we are able to go from firefighting and questioning our role in the future of British farming, to having the confidence and viability to make long-term decisions for our businesses. We will now be able to do what we do best; produce high-quality, protein-rich food and manage our most treasured landscapes.”

More information

  • The NFU has been campaigning for upland farmers to be acknowledged by the government for over 18 months. More information can be found here.