Independent commission hears traditional farming is "simply not profitable" from Dales Hill Farmer

Pen Y Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales
Pen Y Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales
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Farming needs new business models and a new approach in order to survive and thrive a Dales hill farmer told the independent commission looking at challenges facing North Yorkshire’s rural communities.

Giving evidence to the North Yorkshire Rural Commission, Malham farmer, Neil Heseltine, said traditional farming was “simply not profitable” and a new approach was needed.

He told the eight commissioners tasked with investigating key areas of concern in England’s largest county, that a “shift” in mindset was the only way forward.

Mr Heseltine emphasised the need for focus to be on the benefits change could bring with the part agriculture can play in delivering a carbon neutral economy “front and centre”.

“We can reduce our emissions and we can make adjustments to capture carbon while supporting biodiversity – as long as we are prepared to shift our mindset and take responsibility.”

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The first to give his views to the panel which was formed in October, Mr Heseltine spoke on Farming, Food and the Environment, one of seven sessions which will take place over the coming months. The commission will then publish a report on its findings in the summer.

Looking to the future, Mr Heseltine called for farming to become part of the national curriculum.

He said there needed to be far more emphasis on education, people’s understanding of where their food comes from, how it is produced and the science of farming.

The commission also heard evidence from Dr Carmen Hubbard, senior lecturer at Newcastle University and an expert in rural economics, who said each individual farmer needed to be looking hard at how they could adapt their business model.

“We need much greater integration of farms into the supply chain and farmers need to think in detail about how they can do this.”

Agricultural and community bodies including the NFU, CLA, Local Enterprise Partnership and Tenant Farmers’ Association also gave their views.

Chair, The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon, said: “There is a huge question about how to make the industry self-supporting and profitable, as well as how best to capitalise on the power and value of ‘brand North Yorkshire’ in marketing agricultural products locally, nationally and internationally.

“We have heard about potential opportunities around food tourism, innovations in technology maximising profitability while protecting the environment, about what balanced rewilding projects may be able to achieve and the importance of business support along with investment in education and training.”