Keeping livestock on the hills is the key to maintaining the character of areas like the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and Dartmoor, the NFU said today.
A new report, Farming Delivers for the Hills and Uplands, highlights how sheep and cattle have for hundreds of years shaped some of the country’s most iconic landscapes and communities. It also illustrates how producers continue to deliver high quality British beef and lamb in these areas.
Accompanying this report is a policy document detailing the NFU’s commitment to the uplands. It outlines key priority areas such as CAP, climate change and relationships with agricultural stakeholders and explains why recognising the value of hill farmers is necessary for a viable and profitable hill and upland sector that will help shape a wide range of social, economic and cultural activities.
The uplands are dominated by livestock farming. England’s 2.2m hectares of uplands are home to 44 per cent of breeding ewes and 40 per cent of beef cows. In Wales, the 75 per cent of breeding ewes and 85 per cent of beef cows are found on the 1.1m hectares of Welsh uplands.
NFU hill and upland farming group chairman Robin Milton said: “There has been a lot of uncertainty facing hill farmers over the past 12 months with a number of contributing factors –such as the weather, rising costs and disease leading to hill farmers getting less for their produce while facing increasing production costs.
However, I believe that there is a more prosperous future for hill farming with increasing demand for traceable, quality British produce.
“As well as producing food, productive hill farms protect national assets: iconic landscapes, internationally important wildlife habitats and the majority of the UK’s carbon storage. They also provide the backdrop for the tourism industry. Recognition of farming and the pivotal role farmers play in land management are the first steps in securing sustainable and thriving farmed landscapes across the whole of the country’s hills and uplands.
“I believe that we must find better ways to ensure that the full potential of the uplands is realised – to keep delivering a full range of environmental, economic and social benefits and solutions for the whole of the UK.
“And as CAP reform negotiations continue, it is also important to stress that direct payments to farmers are currently a vital lifeline – the only way we can ride-out the volatility of world markets. If these go, many sheep farmers and their families face a very uncertain future.”
“Hill farmers need respect as they look after the uplands on a daily basis and we must ensure these iconic landscapes are maintained and accessible to the public. It is absolutely vital these farmers are treated fairly and rewarded for their hard work if they are to keep on delivering for future generations.”