South Devon Farmers group discuss post Brexit issues with Defra Minister
The Avon Valley Facilitation group coordinated by the South Devon AONB Unit welcomed Farming Minister George Eustice MP to a meeting of over 50 farmers at Holsome Park, Diptford near Totnes on Saturday evening.
Farmers Cathy Case from Bigbury with livestock and vegetable enterprises and David Camp from Totnes who keeps South Devon cattle and farms organically across the area, made the case for more flexible land management scheme agreements going forward and developing a ‘common sense approach’ with regards to inspections. The importance of effective trade deals was emphasised to ensure that the landscape continues to be grazed, with suitable options for grazing steep and inaccessible areas.
Their presentation conveyed the message that profitable land managers will look after the environment and that quality food production was a key driver in continuing to deliver the wider benefits provided by the stunning landscape of South Devon AONB.
The Minister answered a variety of questions from the audience and confirmed that Defra is exploring the feasibility of extending some HLS agreements. He also stated that going forward he anticipated that the start of new Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes would be staggered, and farmers or land managers with an expiring HLS agreement could volunteer to participate in the pilot of the new scheme.
Graham Lethbridge of Holsome Park covered some of the achievements of the Avon Valley Farmers group stating that they had assisted over 30 members into Mid-Tier stewardship schemes since 2015 covering an area in excess of 1250 hectares.
Cathy Case commented “As facilitation group members and keen young farmers wishing to grow our businesses we deliver sensitive grazing, public access, flood mitigation, and water management. We are ready to trial new schemes and new options helping to deliver the 25 Year Environment Plan, but we need to know Defra will support our industry in such volatile times.”
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “As one of the largest facilitation groups in the country, Avon Valley is a brilliant example of how famers can work together to protect the landscape. Farmers and land managers are playing a key role in keeping South Devon productive, while ensuring a united commitment to protect and improve our natural environment”.