HILL farmers, commoners and graziers are invited to a free event in Penrith to find out how they can benefit from a new payment scheme for moorlands, being announced by Defra this week.

From 2021 the area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England is being phased out. It is being replaced, over the next seven years, by three new payment systems based on environmental outcomes and public goods.

Julia Aglionby Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land, will be speaking at the event which is being organised by the Our Upland Commons Project and the Federation of Cumbria Commoners.

It starts at 7pm, on December 15, at The Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart, with a local and brief overview of the Our Uplands Commons project.

Julia Aglionby will then explain Defra’s Moorland and Rough Grazing Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI22), how to apply and use the scheme to support common land and commoning. It will include an introduction to mapping options and assessing assets with the Federation of Cumbria Commoners facilitating a group discussion and a question and answer session

“With Defra’s policy for the sustainable farming incentive still under development, it’s a frustrating time for all. Of particular interest to upland hill farmers is what’s happening to them and they’ve been waiting a long time to find out,” explains Julia, who is also a practicing rural chartered surveyor and chair of the Upland Alliance.

“Defra will be providing more details in early December,” continues Julia, “and this event will be one of the earliest opportunities for farmers to find out what they need to be doing and how they can benefit."

“All land above the ‘moorland line’ is eligible and commoners’ associations will be able to apply including those already in stewardship schemes. It is important to think of this as an introductory standard to plan for the future not a scheme to replace BPS.

Viv Lewis, from the Federation of Cumbria Commoners says: “The world of hill farming is changing very fast and we all need to be informed and well prepared to grasp all opportunities to help our businesses and countryside thrive in this time of uncertainty. It is really important that hill farmers understand what Defra is offering on common land so they, together with their Commoners’ Association can make informed decisions about the future. Our aim is that those attending the meeting will have a better grasp of what is on offer and what they need to do next.

In 2021 just three percent (400,000 hectares) of England remains as common land: land owned by one person over which others, ‘the commoners’, have rights including to graze livestock. Importantly all common land is open access so we all have rights for recreation on foot.

To book a free place email the project officer Alan Robinson at alan@foundationforcommonland.org.uk