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New hill farming partnership launched

sheep on fell[H]ill farmers in northern England have a new voice and forum to express their views.

A proposal to form a panel to represent farmers from England’s northern uplands has been formally adopted by the board of the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership (NUCLNP).

The new Northern Hill Farming Panel will be a farmer-led initiative and will seek to address some of the challenges faced by those that farm the northern uplands.

The panel will seek to represent hill farmers in future discussions with Government ministers and officials on how they can help foster a more sustainable future for farming in the northern uplands.

Early issues it will consider include the implications of the EU referendum result and the implementation and limitations of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Late last year, the NUCLNP employed John Waldon of the South West Uplands Federation to provide advice and guidance on setting up the panel. John spent a number of months speaking with farmers across the area, gathering views on how it might benefit them and how it might operate.

The panel will comprise hill farmers from all parts of the Northern Upland Chain, with the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park Authorities and the North Pennines, Nidderdale and Forest of Bowland Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnerships providing the support necessary for it to function.

All farmers within these five protected landscapes are able to support the work of the panel and potentially become panel members after its first year of operation. Local meetings will be arranged over the autumn and winter of 2016/17 to enable this to happen.

Richard Betton, a hill farmer from Upper Teesdale, will chair the panel. He also works for the Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support service and is a local representative on the NFU Hill and Uplands Farming Group.

“The panel agreed that there is a need to communicate the importance to society of maintaining active hill farmers in terms of environmental benefits, skills, knowledge and social vitality,” he said.

“The resource of farmers itself is valuable and once lost cannot be replaced.

“The result of the EU Referendum could be viewed as a disaster for UK agriculture, especially in the hills. It is, however, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design a new system that underpins a vibrant and thriving upland farming community with the skills to deliver a sustainable environment on the back of their agricultural production.”

An interim panel was established at a launch event at the Jersey Farm Hotel, near Barnard Castle  in June and met for the first time  the following month in Middleton-in-Teesdale.

For more information, contact Richard Betton at [email protected] or on 01833 641010, or Adrian Shepherd, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Head of Land Management and NUCLNP representative,  at [email protected] or on 01756 751609.

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