The Tenant Farmers Association has told DEFRA that it cannot deliver
its rural development and environmental policies without having
the country's farmers on board. The comment was made in responding
to DEFRA's consultation documents on the future for the Rural Development
Programme and plans for a new hill farming scheme.
TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said, "There has been a tendency
over recent years for the Government and some environmental organisations
to appear, at best, to underplay and at worst denigrate farming's
role in the management of the rural environment and the development
of the rural economy. However, the TFA is pleased that the tide
of opinion is beginning to turn towards a more positive direction".
"In hill areas in particular, farming provides the most reliable
and coherent basis upon which the management our most beautiful
and yet fragile landscapes and ecology, should continue. The knowledge
contained within the farming community in hill areas is invaluable
and must be the primary source for new policy development. It is
not overstating the case to say that the skills of livestock and
moor management are bred into hill people and just as the sheep
are hefted so are the people. Without the hill community in the
uplands making a sustainable living from livestock production,
the landscape will change out of all recognition in a short time.
Once it has gone it will be nearly impossible to get back" said
The TFA argues that continuing support for upland farmers must
be a vital component of sustainability into the long run. However,
the Government wants to make major changes to hill support which
would destabilise the fragile farming/environmental balance.
"The TFA is arguing for a period of continuity whilst careful
consideration is given to the development of a new scheme for the
long-term which will deliver an integrated, upland land management
scheme with stock rearing at its core" said Mr Dunn.
The wider Rural Development Programme upon which DEFRA is also
consulting is incredibly important for the delivery of public benefits.
However, in order for it to work effectively, it needs to be delivered
efficiently and ensure that people are not excluded.
"Many members of the TFA, who have attempted to access schemes
under the current programme, report unhappy experiences with the
application process. Many find it cumbersome, difficult to understand
and laborious. There is also concern about the increasing move
towards regionalisation of administration and decision making.
This not only leads to an incoherent approach nationally, but also
often leaves a vacuum when regional people do not feel qualified
to make decisions on points of principle or policy which they feel
are better taken at a national level. The TFA has asked that in
developing the future programme, specific effort is put into ensuring
that the application process is streamlined whilst ceasing any
further regionalisation of implementation and decision making" said
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