Rishi Sunak visits Swaledale hill farm to see new funding system at work

Mr Sunak with Adam Hunter, his wife Leanne, and their two children Annie and Ted.

Rishi Sunak has seen how Government funding is helping Yorkshire Dales farmers make the switch to the new system of agricultural support.

He visited a Dales hill farm in Upper Swaledale to see how a grants programme is helping one farming family look after the land in a more environmentally friendly way and also develop a new income stream.

Adam Hunter’s family have been the custodians of Crow Trees Farm between Gunnerside and Muker for four generations. They have a herd of 20 hardy Luing cattle sold for finishing and 600 Swaledale and Swaledale/Texel cross sheep.

Adam and his wife Leanne are using the Government’s Farming in Protected Landscape’s scheme to help secure their future and for their two young children Annie and Ted.

The family have received £115,000 in two phases to run a regenerative ‘mob’ grazing trial, to restore peatland, plant trees, create a better environment for wading birds and to convert a barn into visitor accommodation.

Mr Hunter said the regenerative farming trial was helping him to reduce the use of fertiliser, pesticides and bought-in feed while also aiming to maintain the productivity of the farm.

The project to convert a redundant barn on the farm to a bunk barn is nearing completion. The bunk barn will provide low-cost accommodation for visitors, particularly walkers and cyclists.

Mr Hunter said he was hopeful that it would be open for visitors this summer season.

During his tour of the farm Mr Sunak had the opportunity to talk to two other Dales farmers, Philip Metcalfe and his son, James, of Usha Gap, Muker, and Stephen Dixon of Downholme, near Richmond, about the transition from the old EU-derived subsidy system and the new UK-run support programme.

Mr Hunter said it had been a great opportunity to welcome Mr Sunak to the family farm. He added: “Mr Sunak really engaged with us about the future of hill farming and about the help we have received from the grant scheme. We are hoping it will help to future-proof our family business.”

Mr Sunak, MP for Richmond Yorks, said: “It is encouraging to see how the grant programme is helping farmers like Adam and Leanne with the agricultural transition. I know farming in a special landscape like the Yorkshire Dales presents unique challenges and this programme is helping many Dales farmers meet those challenges so they can maintain their way of life and continue to be effective custodians of the environment.”

The Farming in Protected Landscape Programme is a part of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ Agricultural Transition Plan. It provides funding to farmers and land managers within National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Launched in 2021, the £100m programme has been extended until March 2025 to assist farmers with the agricultural transition – the ending of the old EU Basic Payments Scheme and the introduction of its replacement Environment Land Management.

The programme is administered locally by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The Dales National Park will award £1.7m to eligible projects in 2023/24 and another £2.2m in 2024/25.

More information about the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme can be found at www.gov.uk and also the websites of the two North Yorkshire national parks.