Agricultural policy must support upland farmers, NFU tells government

An image of Thomas Binns stood outside the Houses of Parliament

The NFU championed Northern hill farmers when it took members’ concerns to the heart of Westminster to present the findings from its survey into the challenges faced by tenant and upland members. 

At the end of 2022 a survey of our tenant and upland members sought to explore the issues they are facing on the ground. Nearly 500 responses were received, reflecting the widespread concern that people feel.

When asked what issues farmers are facing on the ground, the survey results highlighted that short-term tenancies are creating significant barriers to investment with upland farmers at risk due to changes in farm support payments. 

NFU Uplands Forum chair, Thomas Binns, has now presented the results to Westmorland and Lonsdale MP, Tim Farron, and the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) that he chairs.

"This survey really helps understand the issues farmers are facing and what we can all do to help make a difference to help farmers continue to produce high-quality protein-rich food and manage our most treasured landscapes,” Thomas said.

Key recommendations 

Following on from the survey work, we outlined our 5 key asks of government:

  • Equal reward for all: The value of the work done by upland and lowland farmers should be considered equally
  • Reward the delivery of environmental goods: Farmers and growers undertaking stewardship work must be properly rewarded for delivering the government’s environmental targets
  • Encouraging new entrants: Sustainable tenancies need to be encouraged to bring new entrants into the industry
  • Consideration of policy impacts: Government needs to understand the potential cultural, economic, environmental and social impact that policies and land use change can have
  • Greater recognition: Upland and tenant famers play a crucial role in supporting the economic and social prosperity of rural communities, and this need to be valued.

The government must ensure new agricultural policy supports rather than undermine these farming businesses."

NFU Uplands Forum chair Thomas Binns

Tim Farron MP said he was “very proud to back the recommendations from the NFU’s Delivering for Britain report”.

“Thanks to cross-party working and tireless campaigning from the NFU, we are finally starting to see the government moving in the right direction to help farmers transition to the Environmental Land Management schemes.”

See: ELMs – Defra acts on NFU concerns for upland farmers

Key stats at a glance:

Barriers for tenants:

  • 51% of respondents feel that the length of the tenancy restricts investment
  • Only 21% of respondents have a tenancy lasting to at least 2028
  • 63% of Farm Business Tenancies are six years or shorter
  • 11% have no formal agreement for their primary tenancy

Barriers in the uplands:

  • On average in 2021/2 BPS made up 61% of farm business income for LFA livestock farmers*

*Farm Business income by type of farm in England 2021/22.

55.9% who were surveyed were tenants, 43% were landowners, 33% were both tenant and landowner.

The full report can be downloaded at: Delivering for Britain - The Role of upland and tenant farmers and the future of agriculture in the north of England. 

Action needed now to prevent income crisis

The NFU wants upland farmers to receive appropriate funding and recognition for the important role hill farmers play in producing our food and looking after some of our most challenging and iconic farming landscapes before they face an income crisis.

“The government must ensure new agricultural policy supports rather than undermine these farming businesses,” said Thomas.

Mr Farron acknowledged that “there is still so much work to do to make these schemes far more accessible to all farmers so they are properly rewarded for delivering environmental goods and protecting our country’s beautiful landscape.”

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