NPE Press Release Future of Farming

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Call for three-point plan to protect farming in National Parks

National Parks England is calling for the Government to protect the future of farming after data has revealed that, since 2015, there has been nearly a 20% reduction in the amount of land in National Parks under an agri-environment agreement[i].

Agri-environment agreements enable farmers and land managers to farm in a sustainable way that supports and enhances natural capital assets such as biodiversity and landscape quality, as well as air, water and soil quality amongst others. The decline in agreements, which in some cases is as high as 30%, is not just a potential environmental problem, but it may also have an economic impact on the local communities living in National Parks.

National Parks England’s three-point plan will secure the continued security and productivity of farm businesses as they transition from Countryside Stewardship, the current set of agri-environment schemes, to the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS). National Parks England is calling for:

1) Higher Level Stewardship schemes to roll over - National Parks England is asking the Government to facilitate extensions to existing Higher Level Stewardship schemes that are delivering against the 25 Year Environment Plan, and to ensure that there is advisor capacity to achieve this.

2) A review of the Countryside Stewardship scheme - higher tier Countryside Stewardship offers a restricted menu of choice, while mid-tier options need to be a more attractive proposition for farmers and with a clear focus on delivering public benefits. Such changes could help farmers make the transition to ELMS.

3) The inclusion of all National Parks in the pilot scheme for ELMS - all National Parks should be included as part of the forthcoming national pilot for ELMS beginning in 2021. This would provide an opportunity to accelerate the transition to the new system and ensure availability is linked to the reduction in the Basic Payment Scheme, which is currently the biggest EU funding stream for farmers.

Margaret Paren, Chair of National Parks England, said:“Getting ELMS right in National Parks is critical, as farming is central to the fabric of our National Park landscapes and the wider rural economy. We are encouraged by the Government’s stated objectives for ELMS, but we cannot wait until 2027; we must act now to ensure we do not see environmental damage to our most treasured landscapes as land comes out of agri-environment agreements. We need to secure a viable future for our farmers that combines high-quality food production with provision of public goods such as better biodiversity and high-quality landscapes. We have highlighted some suggested changes and are keen to work with colleagues in Defra and Natural England to address this issue.”

National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the country, and farming is fundamental to their distinctive character and to delivering many of their special qualities, for people to enjoy today and tomorrow. National Parks England wants to ensure that the irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage of these landscapes continues to be conserved and enhanced following the country’s departure from the Common Agricultural Policy.

In 2017, National Parks England set out a model for environmental land management in the National Parks and highlighted the importance of taking an integrated, place-based approach that could deliver multiple benefits. Its vision is for ELMS to be a powerful tool to make National Parks even better for:

  • Nature – supporting nature recovery but also landscape, cultural heritage and other public benefits and ecosystem services in an integrated, cost-effective way.
  • People – involving farmers and land managers in the design, delivery and monitoring of the system, supporting improved access, better interpretation and providing funding for volunteer engagement, CARE farms, and more.
  • Economy – supporting a dynamic mix of small businesses, farmers, land managers, contractors, the wider supply chain, and towns and villages, by offering a fair reward for delivery of public benefits.

[i]The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan contains clear commitments to enhance the environment, yet recent data from Natural England shows that since 2015 the area of land in agri-environment schemes has dropped by as much as 30 percent across our National Parks.

Area of Land in Agri-Environment Schemes (ha)[i]

Percent Change

National Park

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2015-2019

Broads

19,588

18,215

17,529

14,603

18,805

-3.99

Dartmoor

64,988

39,111

36,490

45,970

53,782

-17.24

Exmoor

53,262

44,063

42,823

42,468

44,291

-16.84

Lake District

174,799

142,696

138,975

139,523

144,014

-17.61

New Forest

30,470

19,301

18,757

27,418

28,584

-6.18

North York Moors

87,811

51,324

45,734

55,633

60,563

-31.03

Northumberland

79,119

71,690

70,280

62,725

79,985

1.09

Peak District

100,224

85,149

81,500

77,674

79,997

-20.18

South Downs

94,400

85,505

82,057

68,068

81,781

-13.36

Yorkshire Dales

151,850

98,262

92,021

95,851

105,625

-30.44

Total

856,511

655,316

626,165

629,932

697,427

-18.57

Note: Data from 2019 Natural England Protected Landscapes Monitoring. Framework codes PLNB3, PLSC9. Data reflects Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship coverage in National Parks as of 31 March 2019. 2019 data do not include Environmental Stewardship coverage for Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park extensions.

Notes

National Parks England is the umbrella organisation that brings together the nine English National Park Authorities (NPAs) and the Broads Authority. It exists to support policy and practice by providing a collective voice for the views of the English NPAs, raising the profile of their work, facilitating discussion on issues of common concern, and working in partnership with other bodies.  

For more information see: www.nationalparksengland.org.uk.

For further information please contact:

Cam Witten

Head of Policy

National Parks England

cameron.witten@nationalparksengland.org.uk

020 3096 7978

For interview requests please contact:

Contact details for Media Officers for each of the National Park Authorities are available.