Uplands forum chairman Thomas Binns looks to the next year

At the time of writing, the trade deal is still up in the air, so it is difficult to predict what will happen.

However, what we can be sure of is that the transition away from BPS will be a challenge for all businesses. It is clear Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) roll-over agreements should continue throughout the transition period to create stability and certainty for farmers, keeping as much land in environmental schemes until the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is available.

But Countryside Stewardship must be reviewed and made more accessible to upland farmers wishing to enter into agreements. Figures showed that there were only 11 applicants using the specific uplands package available through the ‘wildlife’ offer this year – a pitiful level of take-up reflecting poorly designed schemes.

Some of the early signs of ELMS development look like the government may repeat similar mistakes, but we are fighting hard to ensure sustainable farming is at its core.

Elsewhere, livestock is at the heart of upland farming and its communities, helping to shape the countryside, build rural economies and feed the nation. The continued pressure by multiple agencies on farmers not to farm ironically misses the benefits these actively-grazed landscapes deliver for food production, public access and the carbon agenda.

It is impossible to ignore the tree-planting craze, but ensuring the right tree ends up in the right place will be a challenge, one which the uplands must not bear alone.

While we cannot predict the decisions that will be made about our future, be assured that the NFU, as always, will try to smooth out the bumps.

Thomas Binns
Chair, uplands forum

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