SPEAKER: Kay Hutchinson
SPEAKER: Kay Hutchinson

AN upper dale farmer has flown the flag for hill farming at a major national conference on agriculture.

Three upland sessions were held during The Oxford Real Farming Conference this month, when Forest-in-Teesdale farmer Kay Hutchinson spoke on land stewardship.

The conference attracted speakers such as environment secretary Michael Grove and shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy.

Mrs Hutchinson said: “Hopefully my presentation highlighted the importance of upland farming not only for our food production but also the benefits we as farmers deliver for the landscape, the environment, but also agriculture’s vital role in maintaining local communities.

“Listening to other sessions held at the conference, funding for farmers in the future is going to be very different with payments being based on public benefits, such as carbon storage and clean water.”

She added that government cannot currently deliver on time when “it’s relatively easy to calculate payments in their current format”. She questioned how a formula could be devised to determine the value put on carbon storage.

Mrs Hutchinson said it was worrying that the only speaker to discuss farmers being paid a fair price for what they produce was Mr Gove.

She said: “This was more suggestive of the conference delegates on the whole not being active farmers who were reliant on the stock they produce.

“I believe the farmers in the upper dale on the whole have the upper hand because we are farming extensively, producing quality stock while also being custodians of this wonderful landscape, which seems to be the ideal.”

Other upland items to feature during the conference were “making the most of the public benefits upland farms provide” and “maximising the potential of uplands businesses”.