Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Professor Marsden:

We clearly have a big issue here in what we are saying about the uplands. They are never going to be agriculturally productive in this sense, and they will need support for landscape purposes, amenity and so on. This is a very important element and one of the reasons why I stress this whole issue of the rural economy.

The economy in the uplands is governed not by agriculture but by all sorts of other activities, not least the public sector, which is very significant in rural areas. I think we have to look at upland agricultural systems in a completely new light. We have to look at ways in which we can support them in delivering for the rural economy, as well as for the environment.

Over the last few years we have done some research in Wales which has shown that, okay, there may be some scare stories about cuts in subsidies for hill farmers, but if you look at the amount of household income, not farm business income, many hill farmers are generating a lot of income from non-agricultural activities. They are reliant on non-agricultural income for their household income. There is a lot of cost transfer from different members of the household into upland farm households. That is something we should be encouraging. We should encourage more multifunctional farms in upland areas, which can attract visitors and fulfil more amenity purposes. Again, the Bill provides a real opportunity, not a threat, to our extensive upland areas across the UK.