A FORMER NFU director has slammed the government, saying the 'diabolic' rollout of new payments has been a 'disaster' for upland farmers. 

The news comes after The Guardian newspaper conducted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request into the financial prospects for hill farmers once the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is phased out in 2027.  It emerged that the analysis from DEFRA's Pathways to Success scheme was buried by officials. 

After obtaining minutes from meetings about the plans revealed there were concerns raised about the negative findings. According to The Guardian, government officials said 'upland farmers were falling into financial crisis and might go out of business' and they would 'sell up' once they saw the data showing how much money they would make. 

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Rachel Gilmour, is concerned that many Exmoor farmers remain in business because of BPS, and the Pathways to Success scheme was set to give financial hope to them. 

“The livelihoods of Exmoor farmers are under threat and they may be forced to sell up," said Rachel, parliamentary candidate for the new Tiverton and Minehead constituency.

“To know that this analysis had been done and yet not published because there was no optimistic outcome for our farmers is shocking.

"The Government’s diabolic rollout of new payments has been a disaster for upland farmers. The analysis provides information that affects the livelihoods of our hard-working farmers and was deliberately buried simply because ministers would not like it – and it appears there are no ideas and no viable solution to replace it.

“This deception shows the complete disregard the Conservatives have for rural communities."

Mrs Gilmour has called on the Government to act quickly and look to create a viable route forward, and propose a payment initiative that supports local Exmoor farmers.

A Defra spokesperson said they 'reject' the claims made about the Pathways to Success project.

“British upland farmers are critical to the success of our schemes," they said.

"We reject the claims made about the Pathways to Success project and have taken what we learnt from the project to help develop policy to improve upland farming.

“We have just announced the biggest upgrade to our farming schemes since leaving the EU and have worked with upland farmers to increase payment rates, in many cases for those in existing agreements. We have also developed a new range of actions on moorland that farmers can be paid for, offering greater flexibility.

“There is something on offer for every type of farmer to support them to produce food sustainably while protecting nature and enhancing the environment and we continue to take on board feedback so that our schemes work in the best possible way.”