Written evidence submitted by Dartmoor
National Park Authority
Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) has
real concerns about the long term viability of hill farming on
Dartmoor. We are already witnessing a trend of farmers "turning
their back" on moorland management with potential loss of
There are two interlinked problems facing upland
farming on Dartmoor. The first concerns long-term economic viability
and the need for alternative income streams. The second, pertains
to the need to re-engage with the farming community to allow them
to become part of the process of designing solutions so that there
is a clear sense of common purpose and ownership again. The public
problem that flows from these two is sustaining the capacity to
maintain moorland and all its benefits.
The Authority is attempting to tackle this problem
through a series of initiatives (in partnership with others) which
Empower the farming community and provide
them with more responsibility for the design and delivery of agri-environment
schemesa farmer led approach to agri-environment.
Add value to the food and other products
Explore new payments for so-called ecosystem
1.0 THE PROBLEM
1.1 Today there is widespread concern over
the future of farming in the uplands and recognition that the
public benefits linked to these farming systems are under threat.
For example English Heritage considers over half the Scheduled
Monuments on Dartmoor are at risk due to the increasing amount
of scrub and bracken. Uncontrolled vegetation growth is increasing
the threat from fires and damaging some of the biological resources,
especially the blanket bog and mires. Public access is reduced
by impenetrable gorse, bracken and scrub, rank dwarf shrub and
tussock grasses. The excessive amount of vegetation is also associated
with increases in tick borne diseases affecting both livestock
and human health. All these unwelcomed developments are a result
of insufficient appropriate grazing.
1.2 Stock numbers have been reduced since
90% of the moorland came under ESA or HLS agreements. In 2007
a survey of hill farmers on Dartmoor found that over 40% of farmers
had reduced the number of their suckler cows and breeding ewes.
Natural England have estimated that within all the agri-environment
schemes (ESA and HLS) there is about a 30% shortfall in the total
LSU (Livestock Units) permitted on the moor in summerthe
peak grazing season. Defra's recent Farm Practices survey 2009Uplands
and other LFAs reached a similar conclusion, stating "there
is clear evidence of a reduction in grazing levels particularly
1.3 Research by the University of Exeter
and Duchy College in 2008 identified the Single Payment Scheme
(SPS) as the main cause of decline in economic viability of hill
farms in South West England. It states that moorland farms
"will be hit even harder than average by the changes in SPS
payments; where mixed grazing livestock farms are projected to
lose 27% of their SPS payment between 2006 and 2012, the effects
on these moorland farms are widely expected to be even greater,
with cuts of 40% possible". This study concluded: "reductions
of this magnitude are likely to have very significant impacts
on the viability of SW hill farms: average Farm Business Income
is projected to fall by 34% solely due to the effects of the SPS,
rising to a cut of 64% for the larger `mixed grazing livestock'
farms". Faced with falling public support it is easy
to see why hill farmers are turning away from the moorland to
increase the profitability of their farming by acquiring and focusing
on more productive land (not moorland) "downslope".
The introduction of the Upland Entry Level Scheme whilst welcomed
will not provide a total solution.
1.4 As hill farmers turn their attentions
elsewhere, in addition to the loss of their stock, the skills
and experience required to manage what is a complex and unique
environment are also at risk. There is a significant reduction
in the critical mass, resulting in infrastructure failures, both
on farms and through allied trades. Take up of the agri-environment
schemes has been high but all too often it has been seen only
as another form of financial support and not as a contract that
recognises and celebrates their contribution towards managing
the resources. Hill farmers want the opportunity to develop their
roles beyond just being food producers, but also in providing
and enhancing the public goods.
1.5 In 2004 a survey of hill farmers on
Dartmoor identified several issues that impinged on their ability
to farm. These included the need to clarify what was expected
of them by different agencies and found that most farmers wanted
to be part of the process of designing solutions rather than just
receiving funds. In response a unique project to create a shared
vision for the moorland in 2030 was undertaken. It evolved into
"The Dartmoor Vision" and is the result of collaboration
between farmers, commoners, the Duchy of Cornwall and statutory
agencies. The agencies represented included Natural England (or
what was then: English Nature, Countryside Agency and the Rural
Development Service), Dartmoor National Park Authority, English
Heritage, Environment Agency, and MOD). The partnership has agreed
a map which all organisations use as a framework for management
of the moorland on Dartmoor. It, inter alia, demonstrates
the willingness of farmers on Dartmoor to participate in collaborative
working in the long tradition of managing stock and land in common.
2.0 TOWARDS A
2.1 On Dartmoor we are seeking to address
the problem outlined above through a number of workstreams:
Dartmoor Farming Futures
2.2 This is a joint project with Dartmoor
Commoners' Council with support from the Duchy of Cornwall, RSPB,
South West Water and Natural England. It seeks to test a new approach
to managing the public benefits associated with Dartmoor's moorland
Offers farmers and landowners more responsibility
for the design and delivery of agri-environment schemes.
Focuses on the complete range of public
benefits (ecosystem services) that are associated with upland
farming (from food production to carbon sequestration) and identifies
priorities for particular spatial areas.
Facilitates a collaborative approach
to agreeing the outcomes sought, delivering the management required
and assisting with the monitoring of the process.
Identifies the true costs of management
to inform future debates about public support.
Assesses all funding streams: including
the future role of private investment, the implications of CAP
reform and identifies potential funding models for consideration
2.3 It is focused on developing a more collaborative
approach and offering farmers and landowners more responsibility
for delivering the correct management of the moorland and its
associated public benefits. We believe that by empowering the
hill farming community to take back ownership and responsibility
for moorland management, within a clear framework of delivering
public benefits, the continued loss of the skills and experience
necessary to manage these important assets will be halted and
the foundation laid for a more sustainable farming future. We
are trialling this approach in two areas on Dartmoor.
Dartmoor Hill Farm Project
2.4 This project (led by the National Park
Authority and Duchy of Cornwall) provides practical support for
hill farmers as they seek to diversify their income base. It has
developed "Moorskills"an apprenticeship scheme
to provide new entrants with training and skills in upland farming.
It has also supported the establishment of the Dartmoor Farmers'
Associationa co-operative involving over 40 Dartmoor farmersthat
is now developing new markets for Dartmoor beef and lamb and looking
at how it can deliver "ecosystem services". It has also
supported a Mule Lamb group; a wood fuel cluster and a buying
group. Future projects include "Farm Angels"an
idea to develop a network of trained farm administrators to provide
Dartmoor Mires Project
2.5 This is a project funded by South West
Water aimed at restoring mires and blanket bog to deliver water
management and wider biodiversity and carbon sequestration benefits.
Farmers and landowners are also involved in project management.
It is part of the Mires on the Moors project, covering Exmoor
as well as Dartmoor. On Dartmoor we have also been talking to
South West Water about future revenue payments for ecosystem services
provided as it is keen to look at how it might trial this (current
scheme is restricted to capital payments).
2.6 A collaborative approach to the Upland
Entry Level Scheme (UELS) introduction
This is a farmer-led initiative supported by
the National Park Authority and Dartmoor Commoners' Council and
acknowledged by Natural England. It is looking at how UELS can
be rolled out efficiently across the whole moor to reduce administrative
costs and speed up the application process.
2.7 Together they provide the ingredients
for an integrated solution.
3.1 The approach we have taken on Dartmoor
is to seek to empower the farming community so that we use their
experience and skills to deliver long-term benefits from the moorland.
Whilst we can seek to empower and work in partnership there remains
a need to look at the economics of upland farming there remains
a need to establish the true costs of management and input to
future reform of public support packages and look for other payment
methods for so-called ecosystem services/public benefits.
1 For a fuller description of the special characteristics
and problems facing the South West uplands please refer to the
submissions by the South West Uplands Federation and Dartmoor
Commoners' Council Back