The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority says it committed itself to bringing forward detailed policy proposals for upland farming in the Yorkshire Dales by the end of this year.
The chief executive, David Butterworth, told the authority’s annual meeting that now was the time to seek to influence the government’s policy on agriculture post-Brexit.
He described farming as a “critical industry” to the Dales and said the starting point should be to set an “extremely ambitious” target of retaining the present number of farm holdings in the National Park.
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Members agreed to set up a formal working group, made up largely of Dales farmers, to develop proposals for new farm payment and agri-environment schemes.
Mr Butterworth said: “The Brexit negotiations have begun. The day when the government puts in place a new agricultural policy for England is getting nearer. We need to make sure that the voice of Dales farmers is heard. One thing is for sure: a one-sized-fits-all policy will not work for us.
“This is a time of great uncertainty for many farmers. As they do more than anyone to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the National Park, it is an uncertain time for the Authority, too. However, Brexit does represent a significant opportunity to improve the profitability of farming and the environmental outputs that are so critical to achieving our statutory purposes.”
The working group will be made up of six people:
- Chair and Member Champion for the Natural Environment, Ian McPherson
- Chairman of the Authority, Carl Lis
- Member Champion for Cultural Heritage, Julie Martin
- Dales farmer, Allen Kirkbride
- Dales farmer and Member Champion for Sustainable Development, Chris Clark
- Dales farmer, Neil Heseltine
The group will draw inspiration from a ‘policy discussion paper’ put together by National Parks England earlier this year, and submitted to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The paper said it was vital that new English farming policy should include “locally-led agri-environment schemes”.
The working group chair, Ian McPherson, said: “The future of existing agri-environmental schemes is extremely uncertain. Many solutions are being considered both at a national and local level.
“This is a critical time for the future of uplands farming and it is hoped that the Authority, working with partners, can play a leading role in helping to shape the future of a balanced agricultural and environmental policy for our area.”