A Shropshire NFU uplands meeting will be made annual after a successful event brought together farmers to discuss policy and the challenges for those working on the county’s hills.
NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts and Thomas Binns, NFU Hill and Upland Forum chair, attended an uplands meeting with members that covered livestock health, BPS and other sector issues.
A small group including county officeholders and Shropshire NFU adviser Jonathan Evans met Graham Price, South Shropshire branch chairman, on farm at Brockleton House, Ludlow, ahead of the main meeting at Wentnor.
NFU policy specialists including Tom Dracup, livestock adviser, and Sarah Faulkner, regional environment adviser, were also in attendance at The Inn on the Green.
Mr Roberts outlined the union’s views on Brexit and what might happen once the UK left the EU and he emphasised the fact the NFU was making the case to politicians not to compromise standards for cheap food imports.
He also discussed the Agriculture Bill: “Once we take back agriculture as a domestic competence rather than an EU one we need to get better at arguing why we need help, I think we can make a very good case.
“The countryside only looks the way it does due to active farmers, particularly in the uplands – those landscapes look iconic due to generations of hard work.
“As a tax payer you get an awful lot very cheaply, subsidised by the work, we as farmers do, day in and out.”
The meeting heard the top officeholder team were now talking more about food production as for too long people had forgotten it or turned a blind eye to it, with food undervalued.
He said: “We are in for some rocky periods, there are people out there who have their eyes on our support and we have to be alive to that but there are some real opportunities ahead.”
Mr Binns said there was an enormous responsibility to deliver what farmers wanted in terms of uplands policy to ensure farmers could continue to produce high quality, safe and sustainable food for the nation.
He discussed ELMS and direction of delivery and said it looked like it would be on an individual farm basis with a contract between the farmer and Government with a third party negotiating.
He said: “There will be an element of new language and phrasing about what we have consistently done in the past, to engage some of that future money and policy that goes with it, but there is not a lot of concrete being set in terms of thinking.
“We have everyone trying to influence that - local authorities, national parks and others - all trying to set their colour on what that future might look like.
“The NFU is trying to influence those policies and anything that starts to raise its head we need to make sure it is grounded in the reality of what uplands farming is about.”
He also spoke about the tremendous amount of work done by the union over the relaunch of the Hill Farming All Party Parliamentary Group, which will work towards building a productive, profitable and sustainable uplands farming sector post-Brexit; Tim Farron MP will chair the group.
Mr Evans said he was pleased the meeting had gone down well with hill farmers who had called for an annual county forum to discuss issues specific to the uplands.
"We are a diverse region with a varied landscape and we have West Midlands members farming The Peaks in Staffordshire right the way across to the Malverns and Black Mountains," he said.
"They have an important voice, their views are heard and we will hold a similar event next year on the back of how well received the Wentnor event was."
The meeting also heard the NFU had also produced a Manifesto for the Uplands which outlined the many public goods uplands farmers deliver and the unique challenges they face, which has been made available to politicians.