Report from our sucessful and well attended AGM

Over 60 people attended our AGM last Friday and thank you to everyone who attended and made it a successful event.

After the AGM business we heard from two speakers.

Robin Milton, chairman NFU Uplands Forum gave a presentation on the future of the upland farmer. He explained what the NFU do support upland farmers in light of the influential ideas around natural capital and ecosystems services

The NFU line is that "Farming has to be at the very core of any future Agricultural Policy". Robin noted that upland farming may be the most vulnerable sector, but if things go wrong in the uplands, it is society that will have the most to lose.

Agriculture has to be at the centre of any new uplands policy and questions to be considered include:

  • Productivity focus?
  • Young People, Loans?
  • Do we need a succession system, or do we aim for a vibrant industry to do it for us?
  • Do we need a support package at all?
  • What will be the impact of 25 Year Environment and Agriculture Plans, when will these be released?
  • Public Perception/value for money, current support equates to £3.30 per visit to the uplands, this is less than car parking charges

Robin stated that the current Countryside Stewardship Schemes are not aimed at, or attractive to hill farmers. They are going to areas where there is likely to be high impact for the money invested. These are the lowland arable areas where biodiversity is in trouble and a beetle bank can make a significant difference. This may be necessary, but it is shortsighted to abandon support to the uplands.

If new environmental schemes to be successful, they will have to change. We know HLS/UELS has had a good uptake in the hills along with the previous ESAs. When designing new schemes for the future, we should look to the past and take the successful, most workable bits of previous schemes, along with a landscape approach (HFA).

Our second speaker Jeremy Holtom, Secretary of the Brendon Commons Council gave a detailed explanation of how he helped set up both Brendon (Exmoor) and Bodmin (Cornwall) Commons Councils.

Brendon's main achievements have been:

  • first meeting March 2014 and have had 9 meeting since
  • elected members 2 for year term and achieved the first renewal  of members in 2016
  • They have no public interest co-optees
  • Standing orders in place
  • Developed a set of draft rules waiting for Defra approval   
  • website active (hosted by national park)
  • Voluntary Chairman and paid secretary
  • live register being kept by secretary who also acted as returning officer
  • do not have reeves (pending rules)
  • are financed  by  levy  on rights held

Ongoing issues:

  • RPA  - successful appeal about previous SPS payments, complain about BPS in place
  • Complete and adopt the rules
  • concerns about future support and management agreement
  • issues around the register
  • commitment from those with legal interest in the common land

Benefits:

  • understanding, influence, self-help

You can download the presentations here