Hard-pressed farmers in areas such as the Yorkshire Dales need to have their incomes protected, an MP has warned.
Tim Farron, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hill Farming, met the chairman of Natural England, Poul Christensen, to discuss the future of funding for the uplands and pressed Mr Christensen to ensure that hill farmers’ incomes are maintained.
He said hill farmers deserved a better deal because of the environmental contribution they make to the country.
Hill farmers ensure that water management and flood prevention is maintained as well protecting the carbon sinks of peatland and woodland.
The work they do in maintaining the landscapes of the countryside is compensated for by the Upland Entry Level Scheme, which provides £25m across the country to pay hill farmers. This money comes through the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU which is currently being renegotiated, with changes expected by 2014.
Mr Farron said it was vital that this funding for the uplands was protected in CAP negotiations to ensure that hill farmers were better supported and able to continue to play an important role in the agricultural industry.
“For a long time hill farmers have been massively underappreciated, despite the significant contribution they make to protecting ecosystems, producing food and maintaining the countryside.
“I am delighted that Natural England are readjusting their approach to the uplands, with the recent dropping of their ‘Uplands Vision’ and the appointment of Will Cockbain to the board and making efforts to support our hill farmers.
“What we need now is to continue to press for funding for the uplands to be maintained throughout the ongoing negotiations over CAP reform.”