Upland farmers from Exmoor have come together to state their ambitions to deliver for people and the environment through a reshaped agricultural policy, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
The priorities of Exmoor farmers are twofold:
- To keep the benefits for the public and society from upland areas such as clean water, carbon storage, diverse wildlife, recreation and tourism;
- To support viable farm businesses that also maintain the special landscape features of the National Park whilst taking into account revised trading and support policies.
The ‘Exmoor Ask’ is for a package of public and private investment, overseen by the National Park Authority, together with expert advice, local monitoring, binding contracts and a focus on innovation to develop new market opportunities. These ideas are being put forward by the Exmoor Hill Farming Network following their ‘Brexit’ discussion meeting held in December, which was attended by more than 50 people. The farmer-led steering group of the Exmoor Hill Farming Network has worked with Professor Janet Dwyer of the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucester to produce a position statement from these discussions.
“Exmoor is special, shown through its designation as a National Park. It has been produced by centuries of farming and the management of its iconic landscape features such as beech hedges, heather moorlands and ancient woodlands,” said Exmoor Hill Farming Network’s chairman Dave Knight.
“Exmoor’s farming families care deeply for this landscape and work closely with many partners to protect and sustain it. We have over 30 years of experience of which policies work well for Exmoor. The key to better delivery for the public and the environment is working to national goals and policies through a locally customised scheme, developed and monitored by a partnership of local farmers and agencies who know what works in our area.”
The Network members have produced their position statement to increase understanding among the general public, agencies, policy makers and those not familiar with upland farming and Exmoor. It explains the range of benefits delivered by farming from food, clean water and wood, to wildlife, a beautiful countryside and features of historical and cultural interest.
“The Network will continue to refine their ‘Ask’ as more information emerges through the coming months, working with other partners and farmer groups,” added Dave Knight. “We want to be at the table for the ongoing discussions to develop a new agricultural policy as we leave the European Union.”
• The Exmoor Hill Farming Network partnership project is funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and Exmoor National Park Authority. It is hosted by North Devon+. Key partners working with the project are Exmoor National Park Authority, North Devon and West Somerset Councils, local training agencies, farmer groups and Dartmoor Hill Farm Project. Key sponsors are Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctions and NatWest.