Farmers Help To Improve Dales Uplands
A group of local farmers is leading the way in trying to develop innovative approaches to farming the land in ways that bring both environmental and economic benefits.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are working with farmers in Upper Wharfedale and Upper Nidderdale to look at the ways in which traditional farming systems could best be adapted to deliver environmental benefits more effectively, at the same time making the farm business more economically viable.
The project is one of four ‘High Nature Value’ (HNV) farming case studies that are being developed under the auspices of the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership (LNP) with support from Natural England.
‘High Nature Value’ farming was one of six priorities for action identified at the first meeting of the LNP Board in October last year. The LNP is a public/private partnership whose purpose is to secure practical benefits for nature and for the natural economy of the northern uplands. It covers the four designated landscapes of the Northumberland National Park, the North Pennines AONB, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale AONB.
Helen Keep, the YDNPA’s Senior Farm Conservation Officer, said: “High Nature Value farming systems – like the ones in this National Park – support high levels of biodiversity and deliver other important public benefits like carbon and water storage. However, farming here is marginal and difficult and the many benefits these farmers deliver on behalf of Society can often feel like a burden to them. This project is all about trying to improve that situation.”
Marian Wilby, the AONB’s Farm Conservation Adviser said: “Hill farming has always been a seen as difficult and challenging. For too long now we have allowed this negative image to get in the way of a proper understanding of the contribution made by farming in the Dales to the surrounding area. The idea of High Nature Value Farming is helping us to see things in a new light.”
Cray farmer John Akrigg, who is involved in the project, said: “If we want to get the best out of the uplands, the knowledge and motivation of the people who farm this land must be harnessed and supported, both socially and economically. This project is a really positive first step in doing that.”
The ‘Manifesto for High Nature Value Farming in the UK’ is being launched Monday November 25 at the House of Commons. It has been produced by a coalition of 16 organisations calling on governments, HNV farmers and crofters, farming groups, environmental organisations and citizens to work collectively to ensure the very best support for nature in HNV areas across the UK.
Among the speakers at the launch event was farmer Chris
Oughtershaw who said:
“We need to make sure that the importance of the High Nature Value farming systems in the uplands is understood in Whitehall. The two projects in the Yorkshire Dales are about helping upland livestock farmers to take back control of their businesses. That means having a better understanding of their finances and business options, having a greater say in the way that government support schemes are implemented on the ground, and taking more responsibility for delivering the environmental benefits that Society wants.”
The manifesto launch is being hosted by the Agro-ecology All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Conservation and Wildlife APPG, Biodiversity APPG and the Hill farming APPG with the aim to bring together politicians, HNV farmers, farming organisations, academics, the food industry and interested Non Government Organisations to celebrate and raise awareness of HNV farming across the UK.
The manifesto calls for action in six key areas:
Governments must do more to recognise and support HNV farming, for example by targeting financial support available through the Common Agricultural Policy to those landowners who are helping wildlife.
Farming bodies need to take more notice of HNV farmers so they are better represented in decision-making
Citizens can actively support HNV farming, especially through their decisions as consumers
Place-based organisations and initiatives can make HNV farming integral to growth and development in rural areas
Environmental organisations need to rally behind HNV farmers
HNV farmers and crofters should organise and develop their voice