The week after Easter has been a busy one for putting our views to Defra, as they consult on “Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment”. Leading the Defra team was Guy Horsington, Deputy Director for Future Farming Policy and the Agriculture Bill.

This consultation is not just about how we will farm in the future, but also how we relate to the countryside. It is reassuring that the importance of the Uplands has been recognised and that the principle that public money should be spent on public goods. Public goods have a number of definitions, but are essentially products of the countryside that benefit more than the recipient and cannot be rewarded by the market alone. These would include health benefits, flood reduction, carbon storage, drinking water, wildlife and better air quality.

One of the points we need to make is that how we produce food in Cumbria’s Uplands - our farming methods that have evolved over generations to suit our particular conditions - are a public good in themselves, providing multiple environmental, social and economic benefits.

After engaging with Defra at a meeting involving other partners and organisations, we took the Defra Team to see two of our properties. High Borrowdale to show them our flood mitigation measures in partnership with the University of Cumbria where we will attempt to stabilise hillsides with sisal, and Little Asby Common, as part of a wider tour of our HLF funded Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership.

Our Defra visitors were:

  • Guy Horsington, Deputy Director, Future Farming Policy Design and Agriculture Bill Defra
  • Gavin A Ross, Head of Environmental Land Management, Defra
  • Marie Hall, EU Exit Programme Manager, Environmental Land Management, Defra
  • Louise Maguire, Pilots and Trials, Environmental Land Management Team, Defra
  • Sarah Severn, Deputy Director, Rural, Natural Environment Policy, Defra
  • Gordon Jones, Senior Policy Adviser, Rural, Natural Environment Policy, Defra

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is the government department responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.