Written evidence submitted by Exmoor National
Exmoor National Park Authority is seeking a
future where farming on Exmoor is profitable with a greater recognition
of the central role of farming in environmental management. Specifically,
the National Park Authority would like to see:
1. Increased and secure payment rates for upland
farms through the Single Payment Scheme
2. Flexible Environmental Stewardship schemes
that are locally managed and can be tailored to local circumstances.
3. New "market-based" mechanisms that
reward farmers for the public benefits they provide.
1. The Exmoor landscape that is so valued
today has been created and maintained by grazing animalsparticularly
cattle and sheepmanaged primarily for food production.
While geology and geography have determined the essential landform
of Exmoorits climate, hills, valleys, rivers and streams
and coastal featuresit is agriculture that has had the
major influence on the mosaic of vegetation cover, the wildlife
it supports and the pattern and character of Exmoor's farmsteads,
hamlets, villages and towns.
2. The relatively harsh climate has favoured
livestock farming and, historically, Exmoor farming has been based
on raising store lambs, suckled calves and store cattle that are
sold on for fattening to lowland farms.
3. Exmoor farms provided direct employment
for 1,374 people, of whom only 38% were full-time. The level of
farm-based employment has declined significantly over the past
30 years. In the financial year ending 2005, the Net Farm Income
for Exmoor farms was £5.27 million. In the same year, total
subsidy payments (excluding agri-environmental payments) amounted
to £8.05 million. In other words, public funding accounted
for 153% of Net Farm Income and in its absence Exmoor farming
would have been in deficit by some £2.78 million.
4. There is real concern about the changes
that are quietly taking place, the continuing number of active
farmers giving up; the continuing livestock health problem due
to tick-borne diseases, and, significantly, the stress, hassle
and cost to farmers from bovine TB.
5. The Single Farm Payment is leading to
a net reduction in farm funding support for Exmoor. The relatively
high productivity of Exmoor compared to uplands in the north of
England means that farm payments based on a uniform, area-based
funding rate across the whole of the England upland "region",
are lower on Exmoor than previous production-based subsidies.
6. The higher payment rates available in
the lowlands reinforces the disadvantage experienced by upland
farmers in achieving viable farms in regions already defined as
SDA (Severely Disadvantaged Areas). Higher rates of payment for
SDA upland/moorland areas must be at a level that will sustain
traditional livestock farming. [CRC recommendation 4.1]
Recommendation 1The National Park Authority
would like to see increased and secure payment rates for upland
farms through the Single Payment Scheme.
7. Since 1984, Exmoor has been designated
as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) and a large majority
of Exmoor farms joined the scheme. The move to Environmental Stewardship
(ES) has benefited those farms that have higher quality environmental
assets and are able to enter into Higher Level Stewardship. However,
it is likely to mean significantly less agri-environment support
for farms that do not contain such assets. This could lead to
some farmers leaving agri-environment schemes altogether, putting
the management of environmental assets at risk and resulting in
a loss of many of the gains achieved through the ESA scheme.
8. The ESA scheme also contained some provisions
that are not now available in ES, including the potential for
capital payments for the management of important landscape features
such as the characteristic Exmoor beech hedges on high banks.
At its peak, over £1 million was available for hedge management
each year. As well as an important contribution to landscape management,
this funding provided a vital income stream to local contractors
skilled in traditional hedgerow management and there is a high
level of concern that the loss of capital payments will lead to
a loss of local employment and traditional skills.
9. Whilst there have been many environmental
benefits from nearly 20 years of national environmental schemes
there is increasing concern on Exmoor about the changing character
of much of the moor and heathland habitats in the National Park.
10. Until recently, the moor and heath areas
played an important role in the farming cycle as ewes with lambs
were grazed on the moor following lambing in early spring and
cattle grazed at various times over the year including winter
grazing for dry cows. Swaling (the management of moorland through
controlled burning) has also formed an important part of the management
of moorland areas.
11. The difficulties of integrating some
of the requirements of agri-environment prescriptions with practical
farming is meaning that many fewer farmers are willing to put
stock out to graze on moor and heath areas. Similarly, the requirements
of burning regimes for increased use of equipment and scarce labour
and the fear of adverse consequences if burns accidentally get
out of control, means that farmers are increasingly reluctant
to carry out this mode of vegetation management.
12. As a consequence, the resulting "under-grazing"
and declining vegetation management has contributed to the spread
of gorse and bracken, replacing heather and all other vegetation.
As the moor and heath areas have "scrubbed up" bird
species more typical of scrub have benefitted but negative impacts
such as changing landscape character, more difficult access and
increased fire risk are of considerable concern.
Recommendation 2The National Park Authority
would like to see a more flexible Environmental Stewardship schemes
that are locally managed and can be tailored to local circumstances
to maximise the benefits for biodiversity, landscape and cultural
heritage. [CRC recommendation 4.1; 4.2; 6.1; 6.2]
13. More than 80% of the land area of the
National Park is farmed and farmers make the largest and most
important contribution to environmental management on Exmoor.
As well as producing high quality food, farming on Exmoor carries
out and supports:
The maintenance of one of England's finest
Public access to over 19,000 hectares
of moor and heath significant for its wildness and tranquillity
and 1,000 kilometres of public rights of way.
Care of historically important sites
and buildings going back to the Mesolithic.
Provision of drinking water to much of
Somerset and Devon.
Management of priority biodiversity habitats
Maintenance of peat soils that store
in excess of three million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
A destination for two million visitors
and a direct contribution to the wider tourism economy of more
than £200 million each year.
14. Pilot schemes on Exmoor have included
a significant financial investment by South West Water (SWW) in
peatland restoration. SWW has established that an approach that
provides revenue income to farmers and land managers to maintain
clean water and reduce water treatment costs can be justified
on sound commercial, cost: benefit analysis. In addition, Natural
England is working with the National Park Authority and others
to explore mechanisms for better rewarding farmers and land managers
for the provision of so-called "ecosystems services".
[CRC recommendation 5.1; 5.2; 5.3].
Recommendation 3The National Park Authority
would like to see the development of "market-based"
mechanisms that reward farmers for the public benefits they provide.