Written evidence submitted by the Federation
of Cumbria Commoners
This submission is based on the views of the
Committee Members of the Federation of Cumbria Commoners (FCC)all
are hill farmers and graze sheep on common land. FCC was set up
in early 2003 to be a representative voice to support and protect
the commoners of Cumbria. Membership is open to all Commons Associations
and commoners in Cumbria and we have affiliate members who are
commoners in Lancashire and Northumberland. We currently have
nearly 700 members. For more information see www.cumbriacommoners.org.uk.
Below are our views on the recommendations in
the CRC report that specifically relate to upland farming and
common land management.
1. In general, we welcome the recommendations
set out in the report, but we feel that they still need further
2. Recommendation 6.1: We agree that
Defa should review UELS uptake and initial impacts. A key problem
to UELS uptake on commons is that the guidelines provided by Natural
England repeat the weaknesses of previous agri-environment schemes.
They do not set out clear eligibility criteria about who can join,
deliver and gain reward from the scheme. This lack of definition
lays the foundation for conflict between commoners (holders of
rights to graze common land and often neighbours) as it allows
for different interpretations of the roles and contributions of
active graziers, non-graziers and land owners in delivering UELS.
To enter UELS Natural England demands that commoners draw up their
own internal agreement for the distribution of payment and responsibilities
for the management of a complex scheme using contested definitions.
This is difficult in its own right, but when you take into account
the fact that these negotiations affect each commoner's individual
farm business the pressure and stress increases. Especially as
agri-environment income can make up a significant proportion of
total farm income. In general people do not knowingly walk into
conflict, so some upland farmers are reluctant to begin the negotiations
and enter into collective UELS agreements.
We are not looking for one-size-fits all solutions
to deliver UELS. We are asking for thoughtful intelligent guidelines
that promote fairness and proportionality and provide clear guidance
on eligibility and reward structures.
3. R 6.2: We wholeheartedly agree that
stocking rates should be decided locally. Our experience, knowledge
and daily observation of what is happening on the commons is very
rarely acknowledged or valued by other agencies. Current stocking
rates as prescribed in the schemes are reducing our ability to
actively manage the commons. As a result we believe that the majority
of commons are now undergrazed while some remain overgrazed. In
addition, our traditional hefting systems are being undermined,
and lower stocking rates close opportunities for other graziers
with rights. The design of agri-environmental schemes on commons
is not negotiated with usthe deliverers. We do not have
clear objectives and targets, we don't know if we are on track
as we are not provided with feedback from monitoring. We are not
learning how to deliver better environmental outcomes. In future,
we would welcome being involved in scheme design from the outset
and treated as equal partners as we have relevant knowledge, skills
and importantly the assets and resources to deliver these schemes.
4. R 6.3: we believe that farming lead
bodies (NFU, TFA,CLA) are already doing what is suggested in the
recommendation, but there is room for improvement. Moreover, they
do not specifically represent the particular interests of commoners,
which is something we do for our area.
5. R 6.4: We welcome more R & D
on key themes in relation to the sustainability of the commons.
We would like to see farmer participatory research approaches
adopted where we work closely with scientists from initial design
of the research project to data gathering, analysis, final conclusions,
and follow-up actions. Topics for research could include: how
to mitigate and adapt to climate change on the commons; how to
manage peat as a carbon store; what are the indicator species
for maintaining biodiversity in particular parts of the uplands;
how to effectively control bracken and ticks, amongst others.
6. R 6.5: We wholeheartedly endorse
the need for at least one land-based college delivering upland
farm management courses. We would like to see specific courses
on commons management to include topics such as: skills development
(shepherding, gathering, sheep dog training, walling and more);
delivering food security; delivering clean water and other public
goods; techniques and strategies for collaborative and communal
working; collective delivery of agri-environmental schemes. In
our discussion we noted that colleges such as Newton Rigg, Kirkley
Hall and Harper Adams used to run hill farming courses. Currently
these suffer from the twin factors of lack of investment and low
demand. A key question is how to raise the status of hill farming
so that young people want to enter the industry? The answer being
to make it more profitable by paying for ALL that is delivered
by hill farmers (see also 9 below).
7. R 6.6: RDPE funding should be used
to set up a number of commercial demonstration farms. We were
unsure of what "commercial" means in this context. We
would like to see funding for a network of monitor farms in the
uplands where activities are guided by local farmers groups with
the support of specialist advice. These monitor farms would provide
us with practical experience and new ideas on how to improve performance
and profitability in a positive learning environment. We would
also wish to examine topics such as farm succession and the land
management issues mentioned in point 6 above.
8. R 6.7: Agree.
9. R 4: We agree that a new approach
to funding to reward farmers for managing national assets is needed.
We farm the uplands and commons using traditional extensive farming
systems. We tend to generate lower incomes from the market and
also receive smaller Single Farm Payment. We need economic sustainability
to maintain delivery of biodiversity and other public goods and
would benefit from consistent direct payments to achieve this.
All new payment mechanisms should be light on bureaucracy and
10. R 4.2: Agree. Income foregone is
no longer a realistic means of calculating compensatory payments.
We would prefer a system of incentive and reward payments for
delivering agreed targets and outputs.
11. R 5.1: Agree that long term land
management policy to mitigate carbon loss is preferable. This
should be informed not only by the knowledge generated by research
programmes, but also our local knowledge and powers of observation.
12. R 5.2: We welcome effective carbon
markets as long as the rewards for land management go the active
graziers, rather than the land owners or other rights holders.
13. R 10: We would like local planning
authorities promote appropriate planning policies which recognise
the need for suitable housing design for hill farmers/farm workers
with equipment and dogs. Furthermore, the current application
of planning criteria for new housing on farms often hinges on
the number of livestock kept; this crude measure does not reflect
the labour requirement of an extensive hill farming system, nor
does it take rights to graze common land into account when calculating
farm size. These restrictions hamper us from providing our own
solutions to housing provision in the uplands and play a major
part in the lack of hill farm successors and the failure to attract