A sustainable hill farm lies at the very heart of the uplands of England. That will be the message from the chairman of the NFU’s Uplands Group when he addresses delegates at a conference this week.
Robin Milton will be among the guest speakers at the National Centre for the Uplands in Cumbria (12-14 May) for a meeting focusing on how the land is best managed in some of the country’s wildest and most scenic rural areas.
“Hill farmers and their families are pivotal to all the activities that take place in these fragile and remote areas of the country,” Mr Milton said. “And at the heart of the farm is a business that has the resilience to weather the storms of the next ten, even hundreds of years. We are talking about farmers who have farmed the same land for generations.
“Farm businesses are able to deal with many external influences-be it extreme weather, poor prices, disease and shifting markets. But what they are not able to deal with is rapidly changing demands placed on them by idealistic policymakers - many who regard the practice of farming as an inconvenient detail that interrupts their view of a “natural” landscape and environment.
“I do fear that continued direct payments for hill farmers will be cut and it’s vital that they get a fair deal to recognise the role they play in producing food and maintaining the structure of the rural economy.
“I hope that we have turned a corner and that for the next few days, and in the years afterwards, we see a return to the farmer and the farm being returned to the heart of upland policy, in exactly the same way that they are the heart of the uplands.
See also: Hill Farming news on NFUonline