THE Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is calling on farmers to make their voice heard on the future of farming.

I was at Leyburn auction mart the other day and was told about a farmer in the national park who was giving up his beasts.

He had decided against toiling on, not because of the low rewards but because of public antipathy.

Very necessary declarations of ‘climate and nature emergency’ do appear to have engendered very unnecessary anti-farming and anti-meat sentiment.

‘“Nowadays there are often tears of despair around farmers’ breakfast tables,” wrote a farmer to a national newspaper last week.

There can be no denying that changes in agricultural practices over the past 50 years have had negative impacts on the environment and wildlife here in the national park as elsewhere.

The gripping of the moors, the almost wholesale switch from hay to silage, and the reliance on bought-in feedstuffs rather than grass to fatten animals are some examples.

There is mounting evidence that current stocking levels in the uplands are unprofitable, as well as unsustainable in the longer term.

But it should be declared loud and clear that having grazing livestock in the Dales is absolutely essential for the landscape, for nature, for the fertility of the soil and for food on our plates.

From the National Park Authority’s perspective, farming also has a key part to play in tackling the challenges presented by a changing climate.

What we really need now is for farmers to make their voices heard above the din.

A little reported but very important consultation was launched by Defra at the end of February.

The department released a ‘policy and progress update’ on the Agriculture Bill as well as a ‘policy discussion document’ containing initial thinking for the proposed Environment Land Management scheme (ELM).

It was the detail that many people had been waiting for these past couple of years.

Policy makers in London are often accused of being out of touch.

But I genuinely think they have listened carefully. You might say I would say that.

But take the time to read the documents (easier said than done during lambing) and you can’t miss the desire to reach out.

“We want to co-design the ELM scheme with those people who know best,” says Defra. And, further, “We are keen to avoid the mistakes of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and learn from those people who know best”.

Note the repetition of ‘people who know best’, by which is meant farmers and land managers.

They might as well have written ‘stick your oar in now, please!’

There is an opportunity to be seized here.

The National Park needs an English agriculture policy that supports sustainable farming in the uplands.

It also needs an ELMs which invests big in helping farmers to farm in a way that produces landscape-scale environmental enhancements.

Over the next few weeks, groups that the National Park Authority is involved in – including the Northern Hill Farming Panel and the Dales Farming and Land Management Forum – will be submitting their responses to the consultation.

As the analogy goes, the policy is in the mixer and it’s time for farmers and land managers to shovel in their thoughts before the pour and set.

Anyone wishing to read Defra’s Farming For The Future report which was published in February can see it by going to the website at:

It cover such topics as food production, plant and tree health , rural resilience and moving away from farm subsidies.