Farming in the Uplands - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by the National Trust

1.  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  (a)  The National Trust wholeheartedly agrees with the finding of the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) that the uplands should be considered "areas of significant environmental, cultural and social value and opportunity". The CRC report summarises these opportunities well. The Trust has a long-term programme to deliver more of these public goods by supporting our upland farmers to move towards more sustainable methods of land management and by encouraging our visitors and the wider public to reconnect with the land so that they value it and have a role in caring for it.

  (b)  The uplands are at a critical point in their history—the economic structures that have supported hill farming in the past are changing in ways that make the future uncertain. Yet, we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to refocus farming for a more sustainable future. The CRC report rightly recommends action on a number of big opportunities to move upland farming onto a more sustainable basis. The Trust agrees that this has to happen through:

    — Reconnecting people with the land, helping them to see its importance and how they can support upland areas.

    — Reforming the CAP to create a new policy framework aimed at delivering more sustainable land management.

    — Supporting farmers to diversify their business eg through renewable energy generation.

    — Developing environmental markets that reflect the value of all the services that land managers provide.

2.  COMMENTS REGARDING SPECIFIC CRC RECOMMENDATIONS

2.1  Empowering communities in the uplands—CRC recommendations 3.1-3.4

  2.1.1  The Trust supports CRC recommendations 3.2 and 3.3 which emphasise the importance of multi-agency working focused on a particular upland area. We are part of the Lake District Partnership which is becoming a very effective focus for leading programmes across the Lakes. Its recent Partnership Plan has taken a holistic approach, pulling together key social, economic and environmental actions.

  2.1.2  The uplands community is much broader than those that live and work there, it includes those that visit, as well as large numbers of people who may never visit but feel a special connection to it. We must harness this interest and care and link it to practical ways through which people can support hill farming. The National Trust's initiative with Booths Supermarket, for example, provides a simple way for consumers to support Lakeland farmers by buying meat labelled "Traditional Beef from National Trust Farms".

2.2  A new approach to funding—CRC recommendations 4.1-4.4

  2.2.1  The Trust agrees with CRC recommendation 4.1 that reform of the CAP provides an important opportunity move to a contractual basis of "public money for public goods" through a "greening" of the whole CAP. We are currently very concerned about indications that there will be less money available in the Higher Level Scheme going forward, this would clearly jeopardise the future delivery of a number of essential public goods and the viability of vulnerable farming systems.

  2.2.2  We also strongly support CRC recommendation 4.2. Current funding mechanisms based on income foregone and calculated according to averaged loss of agricultural productivity do not reflect the actual costs or benefits achieved through land management changes or incentivise and reward positive change.

2.3  Developing markets for carbon, water, woodland products and food—CRC recommendations 5.1-5.3

  2.3.1  The Trust feels that there are good opportunities to develop markets for land-based products and services and supports CRC recommendations 5.2 and 5.3. For example, the Trust receives support from the private sector, including United Utilities and Biffa, to restore peatlands thus improving water condition, stabilising carbon and restoring habitats.

2.4  Securing the future for hill farming—CRC recommendations 6.1-6.7

  2.4.1  The Trust strongly supports CRC recommendation 6.2 regarding stocking rates. Funding scheme requirements should be more flexible and responsive to local conditions rather than generic prescriptions, in order to achieve optimum gain. A favoured approach would allow greater autonomy for land managers combined with robust partnership monitoring to ensure measurable objectives are consistently met. This would encourage much greater "buy-in", understanding and innovation.

  2.4.3  Whilst we support CRC recommendation 6.5 regarding provision of training, the almost complete disappearance of hill farming resources from land-based colleges is a symptom of wider issues rather than a cause. Educational courses and training opportunities have diminished over time due to a lack of participants, poor financial returns and prospects in hill farming, uncertainty over the future of the industry, lack of affordable housing and limited entry opportunities. Addressing the underlying causes would greatly increase demand for courses and colleges would respond to meet this demand.

  2.4.4  We support CRC recommendation 6.6 for commercial demonstration farms, these should be placed within existing businesses rather than new developments.

2.5  Encouraging enterprise in new green growth areas—CRC recommendations 7.1-7.4

  2.5.1  The Trust agrees that there is a clear opportunity for land owners to generate new income from renewable schemes. Feasibility studies hydro on Trust land, for example, have indicated that not only would this generate regular income through the feed-in tariff but done on an appropriate scale would create a significant carbon-neutral source of energy.

2.6  Planning to enable sustainable communities—CRC recommendation 10

  2.6.1  Affordable housing is clearly an important piece in the jigsaw and cannot be overlooked. We are therefore supportive of recommendations to improve access to and provision of affordable housing in conjunction with social and economic actions to create sustainable communities.

2.7  Common land management

  2.7.1  Common land is an integral element of upland farming but the nature of its management is distinctly different from most agricultural land and this is generally poorly understood or overlooked when drafting policy and payment schemes. CAP reform, Single Payment Scheme and Uplands Entry Level Scheme have brought significant difficulties with regard to their application and management, leading to financial disadvantage to many commoners. Future legislation and support schemes must ensure that they recognise and address their applicability to common land and common management to ensure these highly important areas have fair access to public funding.

  The National Trust is Europe's largest conservation and access charity. We have over 3.7 million members.

  We care for 254,000 hectares of land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including some of the nation's most treasured countryside. Our upland countryside includes one quarter of the Lake District, Snowdonia and iconic parts of the Peak District. The National Trust has to integrate social, economic and environmental needs in order to deliver sustainable management of our land.

    — 45% of Trust land is within National Parks and 27% in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    — We host an estimated 100 million visits each year to our open countryside.

    — Most of our land is inalienable and held in perpetuity for the benefit of the nation. It can never be sold or compulsorily purchased without the approval of Parliament.

    — Over 90% of our land is used for production and we have over 1,500 farm tenants.

    — 40% of our land is designated as nationally important for wildlife.

    — 43% of all land in England and Wales drains to the boundary of a National Trust property.

October 2010





 
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