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Support for Hill Farmers — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00 pm, 12th February 2020

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The essence is this: farmers manage our landscape and work it as owners or tenants—many of our constituents are tenant farmers who have even more insecurity in the current situation. Without their being able to make a living as active farmers—food production is their primary motivation—we lose their presence on the landscape to deliver all those public goods. First and foremost, the Government must maintain the current farmers on the uplands. If by a slip between cup and lip over the next seven years, we lose a chunk of a hill farming community, we will not get them back. Even if we do, it will be at vast expense.

The delivery of public goods is undoable without the people to deliver them. That seems basic common sense. ELMS fills me with some optimism; the thinking behind the new scheme is positive and the industry as a whole welcomes it. What I am bothered about is that the transition could be so clunky, and lacking understanding of how marginal the incomes of those farmers are, that we end up losing them in the process, and they will see it as a seven-year notice to quit.

We borrow Britain’s uplands from the generations to come, and we are beyond grateful to those who maintain them. We must not, either by design or by accident, threaten the future of our uplands or their stewards.