Last modified: 15 October 2013
Image: RSPB - Cliff Reddick
A coalition of farming, landscape and environmental organisations have this week launched a brand new website that will raise awareness of farmers working for nature in some of the UK’s most wildlife rich landscapes.
From the coast of Cornwall, across the uplands to the islands of Scotland, there are thousands of High Nature Value farmers and crofters who choose to farm with and value nature as part of their farm business. These low intensity farming practices are often influenced by the sensitive relationship that individual land managers have with the land, reinforced by local skills and knowledge that these farmers have retained. However these practices are under threat and without a better package of public support, the future of High Nature Value farming hangs in the balance.
Deborah Deveney, High Nature Value Farming Campaign Leader with the RSPB said: “Throughout the UK, there are many passionate High Nature Value farmers who are doing great things for wildlife and have an interesting story to tell, yet often their voice goes unheard.
“The purpose of this website is to coordinate these voices, providing a platform to raise awareness of High Nature Value farming systems and increase public understanding of the value these farming practices play in maintaining the iconic landscapes and wildlife we cherish, through the stories of these farmers.”.”
The coalition is also calling on governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure High Nature Value farmers are properly supported to secure a viable future for High Nature Value farming. Julia Aglionby, Chair, Foundation for Common Land said: “Commoners have grazed High Nature Value farmland using traditional farming systems for hundreds of years, the fact that 82% of common land is designated is proof of the benefits to nature and other ecosystem services. This type of farming business cannot survive without government financial support so we call on government to affirm its commitment to commoners through well designed programmes so to ensure commoners can continue to farm for food and nature into the future.”
Patrick Krause, Chief Executive of Scottish Crofting Federation, said: “It is vital that crofters and farmers in the UK's most vulnerable farming areas get a fairer deal. Farming in these areas is tough but it is the thread which holds together communities and maintains our most iconic landscapes and threatened wildlife. We need public policy which properly recognises and supports the most environmentally valuable farming systems.”
John Waldon from South West Upland Federation said; “The iconic landscapes of the south west uplands including Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor, were created by farming and are maintained by farming. These areas of High Nature Value Farming provide an impressive array of public benefits but currently receive less public support than intensive farmland in the lowlands. Now is the time for government to affirm its commitment to these farmers, and recognise their value, not just to agriculture, but to wider society."
The website (see link on right) features a series of case studies of High Nature Value farmers, as well as detailing what needs to be done to ensure these vulnerable farming systems receive better support.
Mrs. Deveney added: “We’ll be adding more stories to the website as we meet and talk with farmers and farming organisations. It’s a really exciting project and I’m looking forward to seeing this quickly become a great way of spreading the word about High Nature Value farmers, often working in very challenging environments, doing the best thing for nature as well as producing high quality, sustainable food or stock for the food chain.”
At the end of November farmers and conservationists are traveling to Westminster to speak to MPs about the future of farming in High Nature ValueValue areas.
A cross-section of farming and conservation organisations support the High Nature Value Farming website. The organisations include: Scottish Crofting Federation, South West Uplands Federation, Foundation for Common Land, Federation of Cumbria Commoners, The National Association for AONBs, RSPB, Buglife, Plantlife, European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP), Butterfly Conservation, Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, The National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Wildlife Trusts Wales.