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Upland Environment Needs Farmers
23/05/06

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.

uplands

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 Mr Dunn.

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 Mr Dunn.

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