Removing direct payments before properly testing the new public goods system is reckless and will put hill farmers out of business, says Tim Farron, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP and Lib Dem agriculture spokesman.
I speak regularly to hill farmers in our communities in Cumbria.
Many of them are terrified of what is to come and do not have confidence in the Government plans revealed so far.
Right now, their number one concern is the plan to phase out the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) from next January, before the Environmental Land Management (ELM) system is ready to be delivered.
Defra figures tell us an average of 85 per cent of livestock farm incomes come from the basic payment.
Despite regular calls from the National Farmers Union, the Tenant Farmers Association and others to think again, the Government has not listened so far.
A ham-fisted phasing out of the basic payment may see farm failures across the country, especially in the uplands.
The stark reality is the phase-out of the basic payment begins in 10 and a half months’ time, but environmental land management schemes will not be available for everyone until 2028.
Rolling out schemes before they are ready can have a catastrophic impact. The lesson of universal credit should have taught the Government that.
We have already had the first predictable evidence of slippage in the timetable.
The plan to test a national pilot scheme for ELMS this year has already been pushed back to the autumn, yet the Government insists on ploughing ahead with the phase-out before anyone is ready, least of all the Government themselves.
Removing the existing support before the new system is properly tested and ready to implement seems reckless and will surely cost many hill farmers their businesses, and many farming families their future.
The delivery of public goods is undoable without the people to deliver them. That seems basic common sense.
ELMS fills me with some optimism; the thinking behind the new scheme is positive and the industry as a whole welcomes it.
What I am bothered about is the transition could be so clunky, and lacking understanding of how marginal the incomes of farmers are, that we end up losing them in the process, and they will see it as a seven-year notice to quit.
We borrow Britain’s uplands from the generations to come, and we are beyond grateful to those who maintain them.
We must not, either by design or by accident, threaten the future of our uplands or their stewards.
Tim can be found tweeting @timfarron