CALLS are being made for northern farmers to be better compensated and recognised for the value of their work in maintaining the countryside.

The NFU and a partnership of northern upland farmers and conservation bodies have appealed to government policy-makers to start spelling out the value of the ‘public goods’ produced by upland farmers.

A report launched this week at the Nidderdale Show outlines the many opportunities for upland farmers to produce “well-managed and functioning ecosystems” at a time of environmental and climate emergency.

It endorses Defra’s plan to pay farmers to produce such public goods – including a beautiful landscape, wildlife habitats, clean rivers and good access to the countryside – as an opportunity to develop new economic models to underpin upland farming.

But it makes clear that without concerted action, the opportunities will be lost, risking potentially detrimental farm system changes such as countryside abandonment or intensification.

The report was commissioned by the Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership (NUCLNP) and part-funded by the NFU.

The Northern Echo:

Farmers have the potential to beneficially impact the landscape Picture:

Teesdale farmer and NUCLNP board member Richard Betton, said: “Upland farmers are able to produce loads of public goods.

"Thankfully this is becoming increasingly widely recognised.

"What we urgently need to agree now is how much these public goods are worth, so farmers can start to plan for the future.

“If the transition out of the Common Agricultural Policy and into ‘public money for public goods’ goes wrong, upland farmers will struggle to stay afloat.

"But if we get it right, upland farmers will be in a better position than they are in now. We can produce a great deal for the nation – quality food and a quality environment – but the public, via the policymakers and politicians, must be prepared to pay a decent price. Sufficient value must be put on the public goods produced by high nature farmers in the uplands.”