THE GOVERNMENT should consider a two-tier system of grant aid to take account of the increasing number of part-time farms in the Lake District, says adviser Mervyn Edwards.

Mr Edwards, national upland adviser for the Rural Development Service, made the suggestion at the annual meeting of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.

He said part-time farms were becoming an important part of the Lake District and could well deserve to be treated differently than larger farms run as full-time businesses.

“The National Trust has an increasing number of farms let to part-time tenants, but they nevertheless play an important part in maintaining farming traditions in the Lake District fells.

“It‘s not for me to spell out how a two-tier system would operate, but I certainly think it‘s something that must be considered as farming adapts to change,” he said.

Statistics showed that farm size in the Lake District had increased over the past 20 years – there were now 187 farms over 100ha (240 acres) compared with 122 in 1983.

“Larger farms are getting larger, but livestock numbers are falling and so is the labour force,” he said. 

“In 2002 there were 336,946 breeding ewes in the Lake District compared with 465,073 in 1993.

“There are almost half the number of full-time farm workers employed now compared with 10 years ago and yet the part-time work force has doubled to about 1180.”