A GOVERNMENT scheme that would see older farmers paid to retire has provoked an angry response from the Cumbrian farming industry.

The scheme, designed to bring new blood into the trade, would see the average farmer receive a lump sum payment of £50,000 - capped at £100,000 for farmers with most land.

It is part of a massive overhaul of farm grants, incentivising farmers to protect the environment.

Older farmers are often most resistant to new "green" methods, and Environment Secretary George Eustice wants them to move on.

But Alistair Mackintosh, National Farmers Union Cumbrian council delegate and west Cumbrian farmer, said he found the whole thing 'patronising'. "To suggest it needs the young generation to farm shows a complete lack of understanding by the government.I feel insulted that they say the next generation can manage the challenges as we move forward. As a farmer I have had to deal with quotas, BSE, Foot and Mouth, changes to the CAP reform, and I have managed to adapt.We are changing all the time. If government thinks the payment offered for me to retire is going to incentivise me to make that decision they can forget it."

Defra has already set out a schedule for phasing out direct payments over the next seven years, starting with five percent cuts this scheme year, rising to 50 percent in 2024, with additional cuts for larger recipients. But it has now set out plans to allow those farmers wishing to quit the sector to take their future BPS money up front, so creating opportunities for new entrants and those wishing to expand their businesses.

Nearly four in 10 UK farmers are over the age of 65, with an average age of 59.

Ainstable dairy farmer, Robert Craig, vice-chair of First Milk, said that many potential young farmers would still lack the necessary capital to get into farming, allowing life-style buyers to flood the market. "This scheme completely fails to address the economic reality of where we are. It shows that the government fails to understand the industry, and the size of the investment a newcomer would have to make."

Professor Wyn Grant from the University of Warwick, who has expertise in agricultural policy, offers his comment:"There is not always a willing successor as sons and daughters may not want to take on an arduous responsibility with often low returns. The statistics often underestimate the extent to which children are already involved in running the farm. This policy may halt mergers of farms into more efficient units.

"Nevertheless, younger farmers are more likely to be innovative and boost productivity and be more interested in environmentally friendly methods of farming."

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “The Lump Sum scheme was never going to provide the complete solution for those looking to retire from agriculture. However, as part of a portfolio, which might include a surrender payment from a landlord for a secure tenancy, sale of livestock and equipment and other pension provision, it could be a very useful catalyst. However, we will need to await the detailed rules before being able to fully advise our members.”

The TFA believes that three categories of farmer will find the new scheme attractive:Small scale owner occupiers who are reaching the end of their farming career without successors who can retain the ownership of their land but rent it out; Tenant Farmers who have already begun or could easily begin discussions with their landlords about tenancy surrender coupled with a compensation package from their landlord; Tenant farmers with succession tenancies with eligible and suitable successors waiting in the wings to take over their farms.

But Mr Dunn warned the government have got to make it easy enough for people to take up the scheme.