A contribution from an upland sheep farmer, reflecting on prospects after the Brexit decision.
'At the moment we have a reliable source of revenue from our lamb sales but are concerned to what will happen when our exit from the EU takes place as it seems no negotiations with old or new partners can take place until that point. This could leave a gap of several years before anything is agreed. There have been discussions with the US taking place for a couple of years via the EU I believe for the sale of lamb to the States, these of course will come to a stop and we will have to start again. More than one country has indicated that we will be at the end of the queue.
The British government is being rather vague over the continuation of any support after 2020. Conservation support will not pay the bills commendable as it is. It is also very short term usually in 5 year blocks, you are then on your own and must come up with new areas of the farm to enter into a new scheme for another five years.
All farms only have a limited area that can be taken out of production and still allow the farm to be a viable producer of food. Conservation will only be successful if the industry feels secure financially. Some form of support is certainly needed to counteract the volatility in food production as we all need to eat.
Of the type of support even we are not sure. Any payments per head of stock only produces quantity not quality which is not good for the industry or the environment. Payments on the number of hectares held has caused some problems in Wales as to how you value different areas of land. Perhaps something more on the quality of stock produced and sold successfully, but I don't know how that would equate in the more arable areas.
One thing is for certain, if the family farms are not maintained they simply will not be there in a few years then who is going to look after the environment? Those making an income from the land see and understand the healthy balance of the land for all concerned, and that certainly includes the wild life in all forms.
Also the local communities who rely on agriculture, there are many people working self employed, be they fencing contractors, tree surgeons, agricultural mechanics, shearers- to name some who would find themselves having to move away for work. Our villages will become ghost areas or holiday parks. even those with holiday cottages I hear are sometimes finding it difficult to fill the vacancies as there seems to be so many of them.'