Written evidence submitted by the South
West Uplands Federation
South West Uplands Federation (SWUF) is a farmer
led initiative representing hill farmers from Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor
and Exmoor. Our members are passionate about the uplands and wish
to see their management of these national asserts continue.
1. The uplands of South West England provide
an impressive array of public goods or eco-system services. These
assets are largely under threat from insufficient land management
which is a result of the Single Payment Scheme removing the incentive
to farm the moorland. Increasingly, in an attempt to remain financially
viable, hill farmers are concentrating on improving the farming
income from their enclosed land to the determent of the open moorland
where most of these public goods and services are found.
The solution to this issue requires changes
to policy and delivery that recognise the differences in farming
techniques commensurate with different parts of the English uplands.
It will also require the appropriate reward for managing public
assets and this reward includes offering the farmers the opportunity
to participate in securing a long term future for our uplands.
2. SWUF welcomed the CRC Upland Inquiry
and is grateful for a further opportunity to comment on the issues
facing farmers in the uplands and to respond to the recommendations
in the CRC's report. We will address selected recommendations.
3. Recommendation 4: A new approach to funding.
Public support for hill farming is essential and currently accounts
for 40% of the Farm Business Income of a typical SW hill farm.
Following the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme that support
has fallen by 40% to 70%. Agri-environment schemes (ESA, CSS and
ES) are part of that public support and remain essential to moorland
farmers but can not replace (and were not designed to replace)
the support provided prior to the SPS. Over 80% of the farmers
on Bodmin Moor, Exmoor and Dartmoor had agreements in 2006. Without
agri-environment payments there would be even fewer livestock
on the hills.
4. Hill farmers are not disappearing. However
there is a real change to the focus of their farming. Encouraged
to provide cattle that finish earlier many have changed the breed
of cattle away from those suitable for extensive moorland grazing.
The impact of bTB has also encouraged smaller herds. Stock numbers
continue to fall. Between 2004 and 2007 breeding cow numbers fell
by nearly 60% on Exmoor and over 40% on Dartmoor. We believe this
trend will continue unless there are more incentives to manage
5. SWUF supports recommendations 4.1, 4.2
and 4.3. CAP reform does provide an opportunity to readjust the
balance between those farming where a range of eco-system services
can be secured and where farmers are unable to provide multiple
public benefits. This opportunity must be taken if these national
assets are to be maintained.
6. SWUF would wish to offer a word of caution
relating to Recommendation 4.4. Whilst we support the principle
of making RDPE funding more available to upland farms there is
some anecdotal evidence to suggest that those successful in securing
financial support to diversify or to participate in local marketing
initiatives often then abandon or reduce their moorland grazing.
7. Recommendation 5. Currently 90% of the
water going to households in Devon and Cornwall originates in
the South West uplands. The water is of high quality and this
is in part a result of past and present farming practice. As stock
numbers fall the risk of fire increases and the vegetation's sward
changes. Farmers and land owners should be able to benefit from
providing appropriate land management essential to retain this
resource. A similar picture is emerging regarding carbon. The
latest research confirms the presence of over 80 million tonnes
of stored carbon on Dartmoor alone and that fire is the greatest
threat. Incidentally should trees become established on the peat
soils this would also release carbon and damage the most efficient
form of carbon sequestration.
8. We support Recommendation 6.2. The uplands
of South-west England are distinctive. The farming practise reflects
the lower elevation and milder climate; cattle breeding dominates
with sheep and ponies also an integral part of the farming system.
Attempts to impose grazing regimes, designed for the northern
hills, have reduced stock numbers to an unsustainable level and
damaged those unique farming techniques.
9. Without grazing the vegetation on the
uplands will change. The impact of climate change, milder winters
and drier summers, will exasperate these changes. This will increase
the risk of wild fires leading to immense damage to property,
biodiversity, public access and to the water that eventually goes
to 1.9 million homes. Such a fire would also release enormous
amounts of carbon from the peat soils and damage the ability of
the peat bogs to sequestrate carbon.
10. Providing sufficient incentive to secure
the long term management of the moorland is essential. There is
clearly insufficient financial reward for providing suitable stock
(numbers and breed). There is also, and of equal significance,
the issue of the experience and skills held by the farmers. These
too are in decline. All too often inappropriate grazing regimes
are imposed that undermine the farmers' experience. After so long
they begin to feel isolated from farming decisions leading to
disillusionment with the honourable intention to see the moors
well managed. Farmers want to be part of the solution. This is
one of the reasons SWUF supports Dartmoor Farming Futures; an
initiative originating from Dartmoor National Park Authority and
the Dartmoor Commoners' Council. This initiative is predicated
on encouraging commoners (all hill farmers) to take responsibility
for and contribute more to an agri-environment scheme and so ensure
it is fit for purpose whilst reflecting local conditions.
11. The references referred to in this short
1. Hill Farm Survey 2006-07, report to SWUF.
Land Use Consultants, 2007.
2. Hill Farming Systems in South West England:
Economic viability and the delivery of public goods. University
of Exeter, Duchy College and Cumulus Consultants, 2008.
3. Update on 2 by CRPR, University of Exeter,
2010 in press.