The contribution of upland livestock farming still fails to be recognised nationally and internationally, according to David Butterworth, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
As talks about reform of the Common Agricultural Policy continue, he said: “Ninety-nine per cent of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is in private ownership, so you don’t need to be a genius to work out the size of the contribution that farmers and landowners make to the conservation and enhancement of this Jewel in England’s landscape.
“In addition, it is these areas that will be critical in the fight against climate change because they contain huge amounts of peat, which are vital stores of carbon. Managing this land well will make a major contribution to controlling carbon emissions, as well as improving water quality and the internationally-important wildlife of the area. Indeed, if these giant ‘sponges’ of peat are well maintained, it might just help to prevent some of the terrible floods that have been seen in recent years in Boroughbridge and York.
“All of this is on top of the value of the wonderful produce that comes from these areas and the extraordinary contribution these landscapes make to the regional economy – 34,000 jobs in the Yorkshire region and £1.8 billion of sales are directly dependent on the beauty of the farmed landscapes of the Dales and Moors.
“Surely, this hill farming contribution has to enter the equation when the discussion on CAP reform takes place? The Dales might still have its share of down-to-earth, rugged farming folk, but the area itself is fragile, as is its economy – never more so than as a result of the current economic and financial difficulties.
“In these critical discussions on the future of farming it is important to recognise the WHOLE contribution of Dales’ farmers – as Benny Hill once remarked: ‘It’s bigger than you think!’.