By Deborah Deveney, HNV Campaign Leader
The concept of ‘High Nature Value’ (HNV) farming has been around for some time, but poor understanding of the terminology has meant little use of the phrase.
In a UK context, HNV farming is mainly associated with extensive beef cattle and sheep farming in the uplands, with a high reliance on semi-natural vegetation/ unimproved pastures for grazing. Examples from the lowlands include low input farming systems with a mosaic of semi natural features such as saltmarsh, species rich grasslands, orchards, woods, hedges, stone walls, all of which support farmland wildlife.
With the EU Budget and CAP under review, there maybe opportunities available to these farmers through appropriate support mechanisms, ensuring they remain on the land and receive a fair price for the products they provide to society.
We realise that many of these farmers won’t identify themselves as HNV farmers or as multi land use managers, but this is just what they are. Producing high quality food is just one of their roles, in fact these farming practices are actually providing wider public benefits such as water quality, carbon storage, areas for recreation, protecting cultural heritage, as well as supporting threatened wildlife in a fragile farmed environment.
Market forces and social pressures are increasingly making HNV farming systems economically unviable, leaving farmers with a stark choice between intensifying or ceasing to farm altogether. Although agri-environment schemes are essential to the maintenance of HNV farming, in isolation they are often insufficient to secure their future due to income forgone/cost incurred restrictions.
We are keen to gain a better understanding of the issues HNV farmers face, and looking to work with farmers and stakeholders so we can develop a strong, local and passionate voice for HNV farming to persuade policymakers that these systems must receive a better package of support to reflect their exceptional value to society.
So if are you a HNV farmer please get in touch, as we would love to hear your story.
Please contact Deborah Deveney (HNV Campaign Leader) on Deborah.Deveney@RSPB.org.uk or on 01392 432691/ 07702 779351
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