I have visited the Lake District today to see first-hand the vital role that Cumbria’s moorland farmers that play in preserving this treasured landscape.
I valued meeting sheep farmers, hearing their concerns and finding out more about how they support your local community.
Sheep farming has a long heritage in the Lakes – rather like dairy in my county, Shropshire – and even today, farmers continue to play a crucial part in maintaining one of England’s most beautiful landscapes.
That’s why my department, Defra, announced last week that we are ‘moving money up the hill’ as part of our reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
This means that moorland farmers – many of them Lake District sheep farmers – will receive 90 per cent more money per hectare. From next year, they can expect about £56 per hectare, a £26 jump.
This money is vital for the Lake District’s farmers because their role extends far beyond producing traditional Herdwick lamb – although that’s obviously a crucial element.
By grazing their herds on this tough terrain, they maintain the entire upland environment: everything from tiny insects to flocks of farmland birds. Without their hard work, drystone walls would collapse, habitats would change dramatically and distinctive local foods – like that Herdwick lamb – would struggle to thrive.
Not only do moorland farmers in Cumbria have a vital role in preserving local heritage and traditions, they also help help make the Lake District the fantastic tourism destination that it is today.
Rural tourism is worth £70 billion and supports nearly two million jobs in this country, so as well as running their own businesses, Lake District farmers are making a serious contribution to both the local economy and UK PLC overall.
I have enjoyed trying some Herdwick lamb in the Lakes today, as well as meeting local businesses and finding out how Defra can continue to support your local farmers, tourism businesses and the rural community as a whole.