As hard-pressed farmers are facing a reduction in subsidies, supermarkets may face shortages of British lamb and beef.
Some farmers have reduced the number of cows or lambs that they own due to a fall in subsidies post Brexit, combined with increased cost pressures. They say this could lead to a shortage in high-quality meat produced at home.
The National Farmers Union (NFU), according to new findings, will see upland farms lose on average 37pc in support payments when basic subsidies are phased-out and replaced by green schemes.
After Brexit, the UK is rolling out its green farming scheme to replace the EU’s subsidy system of £2.4bn. It promises farmers cash for taking actions that benefit the environment.
Industry leaders have warned, however, that the sustainable-linked subsidy is not tailored for hill farmers. This means that many of them will lose payments that keep them afloat.
The government has previously said it would unveil a new funding package this year. However, timelines have been delayed.
The uncertainty has already led some farmers to reduce their operations. This raises the chance of a possible British beef or lamb shortage.
Helen Drinkall runs a farm near Chorley in Lancashire. She said that she recently reduced the number cattle on her farm, after “treading water” for years.
Ms Drinkell stated that the industry would shrink if nothing was done: “It all depends on how much the British public values the presence of home-grown beef and lamb in supermarkets, because supermarkets will always be able to find it.”
The beef and lamb they import will be lower quality, less climate-friendly and not meet the same standards as we are used to.
UK Hill farmers say that the schemes in the country do not acknowledge their work in preserving upland areas in well-known National Parks like the Peak District and Exmoor.
Farmers in flat areas can get paid to sow strips of land or create hedgerows. However, those who live on hillsides are not able to do this.
The land is unsuitable for crops or fresh food, so cattle and lambs are usually reared on upland farms.
Hill farmers claim to be involved in the maintenance of local footpaths as well as boosting biodiversity where they work.
David Exwood, Vice President of the NFU, stated that farmers in the hills are not surprised by the anticipated decrease in government subsidies.
He said that the NFU had been encouraging ministers to speed up proposals “that deliver meaningful income in exchange for the essential management hill farms provide and the environmental benefits they supply.”