This post is by Chris Clark of Nethergill Farm. It is the first in a short series about the options for the future of upland hill farming in the UK.
With the increased uncertainty regarding the viability of hill farms, the time is now ripe for farmers to think radically about hill farm management and consider new alternatives in a way that has not been possible since the last war. The justification for the old hill farming world is going or maybe has already gone. Read more
UK farming is in crisis. Forty per cent of farms make no profit. Farm debt is soaring. Farmers are taking home an ever decreasing share of what we spend on food and, over the long term, food prices have been dropping.
Many farmers are stuck in a cycle of working the land ever harder just to break even. This is taking a heavy toll on the asset that farming relies on most of all – nature – as regular reports from the State of Nature partnership and the Natural Capital Committee make clear.
Since the EU referendum, there has been growing pressure for clarity over two things. First, how an independent UK will protect its natural environment, and, second, how we will pay for it, as most of the legislation that currently directs these areas comes from the EU.
Very soon, the government will be laying down the first major marker for its approach with its 25 year plan for the environment. The title is perhaps slightly misleading; it will not be a plan, rather an outline for how to develop a plan. But the signs are that it will contain some heartening aspirations and set out a strong framework. And above all, it will bring welcome clarity to an area where before there was only speculation and uncertainty.