HNV farming approach essential for future of Welsh upland farming
We need a change of narrative about upland farming and a change of approach in how we deal with it – that was the message from EFNCP at a conference held recently in Llanrwst on Welsh upland farming post-Brexit organised by RSPB Cymru, Bangor University and Cynidr Consulting, and supported by the Welsh Government through the Wales RDP 2014-20.
As the challenges of Brexit approach, Welsh mountain farming is being told daily that it needs to ‘deliver for the public’, shifting the focus of their production from food to a range of ecosystem services for a broad spectrum of consumers.
Sometimes it sounds as if this could or should be alongside or perhaps even instead of their livestock farming, devaluing farmers’ motivations for persisting with their management and their culture, experience and skills, but also under-appreciating the real positive impacts on public good delivery which can and do flow from High Nature Value farming systems.
At worst, farming is seen as something undesirable to be eliminated or allowed to die from neglect; less brutal, but equally damaging versions of the same mindset ask the farmer to subsidise his pastoral activities, costly as they are in money and labour, from diversification, off-farm work and income sources which accrue equally to the active and the inactive.
EFNCP believes in a HNV farming approach to upland agriculture, which means:
- Focusing above all on breaking the current link between high public goods delivery and low incomes, while not compromising the delivery of public goods
- Changing the narrative to recognise the central and positive role of the farmer, while not pretending that everything is necessarily optimal everywhere
- Recognising that most public goods can be delivered very effectively not only by the farmer, but by farming, making the most of his/her knowledge and commitment
- Finding support mechanisms which use those skills and that ethos as key elements in a results-based approach which encourages better delivery and rewards excellence
- Taking farmers’ incomes (and other socio-economic aspirations/blockages) seriously, in particular taking care to reward the farmer’s work delivering public goods with at least the minimum wage while encouraging and facilitating an improvement in market returns
- Promoting innovation, research, education and lifelong learning which is not only broadly relevant to upland farming, but supports profitable HNV upland systems
The presentation by Gwyn Jones can be downloaded here.
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