What we have been doing recently
We have been busy over the last six months trying to represent and support the commoners of Cumbria and also learn from what others are doing. Below is a selection of the activities we have been involved with.
Maddy Jago visit
In early February we hosted a visit from Maddy Jago (Director, Landscape, Biodiversity and the Uplands for Natural England). The purpose of the visit was to present members’ concerns over proposed new stocking levels in HLS agreements and their impact on hill farming businesses. Maddy talked to farmers in St John’s in the Vale about their experiences (not all positive!) of working with United Utilities and Natural England on SCaMP (sustainable catchment management programme). She took part in a frank round table discussion with a number of our committee members, Will Cockbain NFU), Douglas Chalmers (CLA) and representatives from other organisations were also present.
Maddy agreed that among their priorities Natural England will focus on:
- Improving local joint working over grazing and agri-environment agreements through the Cumbria Grazing Forum
- Sharing and developing knowledge, via the Cumbria Grazing Forum
- Being more transparent about how Natural England calculates stocking levels in HLS agreements
- Understanding the impacts of agri-environment agreements and stocking changes on hill farming businesses and on day-to-day sheep farming
- Developing joint locally tailored approaches to grazing within agri-environment schemes, via the Grazing Forum
Through this process we hope to develop mutual respect, learn from each other and negotiate potential solutions that support a profitable hill farming sector and deliver the ecosystems services that we all need. We will be monitoring progress and report back to you.
To read a copy of the letter from Maddy Jago outlining Natural England's postion click on the link below.
We have coordinated responses to relevant government consultations on issues affecting commoning including:
- Defra SPS payments of commons May 2011 (click on link below to see our response)
- Defra consultation on Animal movements on and off the commons
- Defra request for views on Works on Commons
- Natural England Supplementary application for Uplands ELS
- Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry into issues facing farming in the uplands
Although it is sometimes hard to judge whether we get heard and, more importantly, heeded, the requests for our views keep on coming in. We are on the official consultation list - a sign that we have built up credibility with Defra and other government bodies.