Hill farming ‘faces shake-up under tougher stewardship rules’

Hill farming in England and Wales faces a radical shake up in the next decade as farmers put more emphasis on environmental management, according to the National Trust.

Farming of carbon, water and wildlife will become the norm for hill farmers within years as hill farmers focus on food production and protecting the landscape.

The Trust, which manages 250,000ha (660,000 acres) of land, the majority of which is upland, said climate change and the need to value “natural capital” meant hill farmers would have to find new ways to survive.

Iwan Huws, the National Trust’s Director for Wales, said maintaining footpaths, selling food to niche markets and providing education and leisure for tourists and local communities offered ways for hill farmers to make money in future.

By 2018 hill farms will have to focus on using fewer resources, such as energy to produce food and any financial support will focus on environmental stewardship, including managing water and carbon storage, he said.

New investment and better use of funds was essential for hill farmers to better manage the uplands, he added.

“With the right investment, [hill] farms could be rewarded for their important contribution to our wildlife as well as the management of the finite resources such as water and soil, which will benefit us all.”

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