The move to relaunch the Hill Farming All Party Parliamentary Group in the House of Commons has been welcomed.
With the stated aim of working towards a productive, profitable and sustainable uplands farming sector post-Brexit, the North East rep on the NFU’s National Uplands Forum, Richard Betton, said it was very encouraging to see MPs working cross-party to achieve a common goal.
“Hill farming is barely sustainable at the moment and the changes coming through as a result of Brexit could cause permanent damage to an already fragile sector," he said. "We must all work hard to ensure that does not happen."
Two North East MPs are members of the group: Julian Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer and Labour’s Helen Goodman who represents the Bishop Auckland constituency.
Commenting, Julian Sturdy said: “As an MP for the region including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, I am very happy to support this group as the voice of the uplands at Westminster.
“An immediate priority must be getting the new Agriculture Bill right. Given the existing role of upland farmers in maintaining iconic landscapes, the proposed ‘public money for public goods’ approach could work really well, but only provided change is implemented carefully, reflecting their trade access needs and current reliance on basic payments.”
Helen Goodman also emphasised the unique challenges facing the sector. She said: “This APPG is a much-needed cross-party forum for focused discussion. I represent over 400 hill farmers in Teesdale and many are tenants on marginal land. Their work is essential in maintaining the biodiversity and way of life in the uplands. This kind of farming comes with some unique needs and challenges, especially as Brexit approaches. For me, a priority area is to secure specific provision for uplands farming in the Agriculture Bill.”
To mark the relaunch, the NFU has produced an Uplands Manifesto that outlines the many public goods uplands farmers deliver and the unique challenges they face.