Restore footpaths

14 August 1998

Restore footpaths

FARMERS have been urged to restore public footpaths and bridleways after ploughing in the wake of the cereals harvest. The Country Landowners Association has warned that producers could risk prosecution and heavy fines if they fail to observe the ploughing code and ignore their legal responsibility to safeguard public rights of way.

Highway authorities can take action against farmers who ignore their legal duty, entering private land and removing obstructions from paths – work for which they can then bill the offender. In addition, fines up to £400 for each offence are possible.

onomy which will support tourism and the landscape, it must stick with medium and small-scale family farms, says North Yorks producer Mike Keeble.

But, he says, family farms in the dales and uplands are under threat. They are surviving only by virtue of a second income.

Whereas 17 years ago the farms would support a man, his wife and one employee, today producers could no longer afford to employ anyone.

Mr Keeble – who works with Strutt and Parker, leaving his wife, Peta, to run their cattle and sheep farm at Masham – will present all his views on the future of small farmers at the Coping with Falling Incomes seminar at this years Great North Meet at Scotch Corner on October 27.

The alternative, he suggests, is ranching in the hills; something that would totally change the rural economy. There were lowland farmers who would see opportunities for ranch-type farming in the hills.

Government schemes to replace headage payments with agri-environment packages are a con, and Objective 5b money is going to support an enormous number of consultants and civil servants, rather than the rural economy, Mr Keeble believes.

He regards a move to organic farming as impracticable on farms such as his own. Family living expenses represent a huge overhead, along with rising rents, and it would be impossible to make a living without using fertilisers and sprays. Fertilisers were cheaper than rent, at least for the moment.

Mr Keeble says efforts must be made to market the produce of small farms more effectively, and he believes there is scope for mutualbenefit by working closely with small family butchers, and by supporting local livestock markets.

He also sees potential in forging working relationships with lowland farmers. He suggests that small and medium farms will not be able to afford new farm buildings when their present ones come to the end of their life span. But there were empty buildings on lowlands farms.

Moving stock down to lowland buildings for the winter and back to hill grazings in the summer would help create more intensive and viable farming systems.

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