News from the committee

What has the Federation achieved for its members in the last year?

The most visible output from the Federation is our newsletter, webiste and the conference at our AGM.

We also do a lot of work behind the scenes to protect common rights and the agricultural management of common land. We believe that we are having a quantifiable effect in “commons proofing” government policy to support a viable Cumbrian hill farming economy. We played an instrumental role in achieving the extra £5 per hectare commons supplement for Upland Entry Level Schemes. We have asked Natural England to update their existing Uplands ELS guidance to make it even clearer what commoners need to do to ensure their applications are processed as quickly as possible. They have done so. Our work has made commons and commoning more visible to policy makers. For example the recent Defra Uplands Policy Review (2011) makes reference to commons and commoning. In the past this would have been absent.  Currently we are lobbying Defra hard to ensure that SPS is paid on the whole common and resolve the issue of “naked acres”. This will mean an increased SPS payment for commoners.

We respond to government consultations on upland farming, common land and more general rural issues. We provide practical, down-to-earth examples from our daily farming experience. This makes our response different from other organisations with a more general remit to support the uplands. Our contributions are respected and sought after.

What does the Federation plan to do in 2012

  • Cumbria Commons Council – we are currently preparing an establishment order to submit to the Secretary of State for Defra. A commons council  will offer a stronger voice and longer-term security for graziers.
  • Self-monitoring of current agri-environment schemes.  We are working with Natural England to develop and trial a voluntary scheme where hill farmers monitor progress of their agri-environment schemes . This is part of national work exploring similar issues.
  • Hill Farming training courses for Natural England, RSPSB and other conservation professionals. Working with the Foundation for Common Land we will implement a project whereby hill farmers deliver on-farm, hands-on training to staff from Natural England, Defra, RSPB and other conservation organisations.  We aim to increase their understanding of hill farming and managing common land alongside providing opportunities for genuine dialogue between farmers and environmentalists. The result will better designed agri-environment schemes that work on hill farms, don’t impose unnecessary costs but deliver the required environmental outcomes. This project will also be delivered in Dartmoor.
  • Farmer engagement in the design of new agri-environment schemes.  We are supporting a project where farmers and Natural England agree the environmental outcomes for their scheme on the common, but farmers have more flexibility over the prescriptions i.e. stocking levels and the time of year stock are turned out.
  • Young commoners. We will be looking at ways to encourage the next generation of commoners.

We are facing challenging times for commoners and for hill farming in general. We know that if the Federation didn’t exist the voice of the commoner would be ignored, as very few people understand the commons.  If there are other things the Federation of Cumbria Commoners can do for you, please let us know.