THE National Trust, which looks after some 150,000 hectares of land in English upland areas, is calling for measures to help hill farming through major changes in the CAP.
New research across 60 of the NT’s tenanted farms has revealed that hill farming is on the brink of a rapid and unmanaged collapse if it does not get support through the major changes it faces.
“The separation of support payments from agricultural production has exposed the stark reality that livestock farming in the hills simply is not profitable and in many cases will be a loss making exercise,” the charity said in a statement.
It added: “Under the new system, hill farmers will not have to keep livestock in order to receive their CAP payments, and there is a real risk that we will lose the grazing animals which are vital for the management of some of our most spectacular landscapes and wildlife.”
Some farms will see their support payments halved over the next five years, the NT argued, and this could force large numbers of farms to go out of business before they have even had the chance to adapt to the new CAP reforms.
The NT is calling on the government to put in place more effective transition arrangements to enable hill farmers to adapt to the daunting economic climate they now face.
It has warned that if help is not provided quickly, the tourism and environmental benefits of upland land management could be permanently lost.
David Riddle, director of land use at the NT, commented: “Our findings show that without proactive government support to assist change and restructuring, the uplands face a bleak future. “
“We are urging the government to dramatically speed up the introduction of a range of transitional support measures including: targeted support for managing the upland environment and providing public access; advice and training opportunities to help hill farm businesses adapt; and a review of the preferential support for lowland areas.”