Health & Harmony, the consultation document presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Defra by the command of Her Majesty the Queen was published today 27th February 2018. We all have until 8th May 2018 to respond via Citizen Space. There will also be meetings across the country to engage. The Uplands Alliance will be responding as a network but we also encourage people to respond separately.
After January’s 25 Year Environment Plan whereby the Uplands were notable by their absence this document represents a complete shift. Defra has listened and actively recognised the importance of the uplands to our nation. The work of the Uplands Alliance is also recognised in Annex A, Stakeholder Proposals. Thank you to all who have worked with us over the last two years to deliver a co-ordinated message to Government.
On page 34 Health & Harmony says:
“The beauty of the upland farm is often in inverse proportion to the fertility of its soil and the profit margins of their businesses. Hill farmers maintain a panorama of dry stonewalls and grazed moorlands. The upland way of life, the unique food produced, and the great art that these landscapes have inspired attract visitors from around the world. Areas such as the uplands deliver many public goods that are worthy of public investment: not only are they a beautiful and rich part of our heritage, they can encourage biodiversity, protect water quality and store carbon.”
The document and the evidence review is frank in the challenges that uplands communities and businesses face and encourages us to provide suggestions for a way forward in order to deliver multiple public good including: Preserving rural resilience and traditional farming and landscapes in the uplands. The importance of other upland assets such as peat bogs also feature highly.
Many of the questions asked throughout the document can be responded to with an uplands perspective but chapter 8, Supporting rural communities and remote farming, addresses some upland issues explicitly, where the questions Defra asks us include:
- How should farming, land management and rural communities continue to be supported to deliver environmental, social and cultural benefits in the uplands
We will be in touch with all in our network encouraging input. In the meantime please do not hesitate to email us at email@example.com or leave a response below.
Three northern Sheep Breed Societies came together to host a discussion event at Penrith Winter Sheep Show and Sale on 21st January 2018. The Herdwicks, Swaledales and Rough Fell Societies invited a range of organisations were invited to have stalls and explain how their work can support upland farmers create more resilient and viable businesses going forward. The Uplands Alliance was there showcasing the benefits the uplands provides and having discussions with those visiting.
The speakers were Tim Farron MP (Westmorland) and two hill farmers – Will Cockbain (On the UA Steering Group) and Isaac Benson a National Trust Tenant in the Lake District. Trudy Harrison MP (Copeland) was also in attendance and was particularly taken by our infographic and keen to speak for the uplands. Over 100 farmers stayed for the discussion event and many more came to the Sale.
The videos of the two farmers speaking on their farms can we watched through he following links:
The Uplands Alliance has been busy having meetings with Defra over the last couple of weeks.
On Tuesday 16th January 2018 a deputation from the Uplands Alliance met with George Eustice – Minster of State for Agriculture and 3 of his officials. It was a productive meeting where we discussed the massive array of benefits the Uplands already provides and which could be enhanced with the correct payments going forward. At all our Meetings we aim to present the breadth of perspective on the Uplands so your Chair was accompanied by Rob Stoneman from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Thomas Binns from the NFU Uplands Forum.
George Eustice MP asked for help designing the nuts and bolts of the new schemes. How do we calculate future payments?
We also discussed what will work on tenanted land and commons as well as owner occupied land. As to payment rates we need to consider:
- What it costs to provide the benefits?
- What is the value / worth of the benefits to Society?
- What is Society prepared to pay for these Benefits?
There will be opportunities for involvement in the piloting of the new schemes. This piloting may be funded with funds raised from the capping of BPS when we leave the EU. The Command Paper will consult on the level of the capping.
We know that Defra are considering a Universally Accessible Scheme and George Eustice is keen to include rewards for a wide range of public benefits; environmental goods and services will be there but also they are exploring rewards for high levels of animal welfare and native breeds.
On Monday 22nd January 2018 the Uplands Alliance chaired a meeting that brought together a small group to brainstorm on the Piloting of new schemes in the Uplands. There are lots of groups with great ideas for pilots and we are keen these are co-ordinated. Officials from Defra’s Agri-Environment team and Natural England’s EU Exit team joined with National Parks England, the NFU, AONBs, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts to consider how piloting might work and in particular to ensure we test:
- Delivery of a Range of Public Benefits
- Different Types of Land Tenure: Owner Occupiers, Tenants, Landlords and Commoners
- Geographical Spread
- How to engage and motivate take up and delivery of outcomes
Thank you to Nigel Stone who chaired the meeting on behalf of the Uplands Alliance, to Natural England for arranging invites and to National Parks England for hiring the room. A note of the meeting will be available shortly and the Uplands Alliance been asked to submit a proposal for piloting environmental schemes in the uplands to Defra.
We are grateful to the Prince’s Countryside Fund that makes our attendance at such meetings possible as part of our project Creating a Brighter Future to improve the resilience of hill farm businesses.
We had an opportunity to showcase the Uplands at the Oxford Farming Conference. While the benefits are huge ensuring effective and enhances delivery is complex. Here is the speech delivered by Julia Aglionby, on behalf of the Uplands Alliance and Foundation for Common Land addressing some of these complexities and the essential need to work with and support those who own and tenant the land given 70% of the uplands is farmed by 6,500 farmers. This was part of the Birds and Bees panel session and after the fours speeches a debate was held on how to move forward, see report of debate here
Text of Speech by Julia Aglionby: The Birds and Bees-Aglionby-OFC 2018-FINAL
Link for Video of Speech
The Uplands Alliance is delighted to be working with a number of partners in the south-west to put on a one day meeting for the SW Uplands on Wednesday January 24th at Westpoint nr Exeter. Places are free and include lunch 10am – 3pm
The event is targeted at upland farmers on Dartmoor, Bodmin and Exmoor. Limited places are available for stakeholders. A flyer can be downloaded below.
Place are limited so do book your place with the NFU who are the primary organisers. The number to ring is: 01392 440700
Other partners include Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities, AHDB and CCRI
The Uplands Alliance has been consulted by Defra regarding an evidence review they are undertaking on the Uplands and Remote Rural Communities. At this stage we have been asked to provide Defra with documents and evidence to inform the scoping of their work.
Attached is a list of the documents provided so far. If you have any other documents you recommend we add to the list please forward them to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can provide them to Defra. Thank you.