Group of people on a hillside
Group of people on a hillside

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Jenny  Walking Sheep Up Street
Jenny Walking Sheep Up Street

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Beekeepers examining a frame of bees
Beekeepers examining a frame of bees

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Group of people on a hillside
Group of people on a hillside

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  • Harriet Bell

East Dartmoor Farmer Meeting

On Monday the 10th of August about two dozen farmers from the East Dartmoor quarter gathered at a social distance in a barn to talk through ELMs. These are the notes from that discussion.

Host: Charlotte Faulkner

Facilitator: Joss Hibbs

Q1 What would you like to see supported within the theme of protect and enhance the environment?

  • Badgers (not 100% sure this was serious comment)

  • Butterflies e.g. Dark green fritillary, Silver-washed fritillary, Marsh fritillary

  • Dung beetles

  • Birds e.g. cuckoos, barn owls, woodcock, snipe, red kite, buzzards, golden plover, curlew, snipe, pheasant

  • Dragonflies

  • Salmon

  • Bees

  • Moths

  • Bats

  • Stoats

  • Hedgehog

  • Plants e.g. heather, ragged robin, orchids, marsh marigold, broad leaf trees, wooded pasture

  • Stonewalls and hedges

  • Water e.g. streams, bogs, mires, retention (e.g. cover crops, ponds, landscape features)

  • Soil enhancement

Who would you go to for advice on this?

  • Colin Pearse

  • Mike Mudge

  • RSPB

  • Dartmoor Hill Farm Project

  • Google/internet

  • Database of people to pick from – approved or not approved

  • Main thing is Dartmoor specific knowledge

  • Apps

  • Train ourselves e.g. the Forest (the largest common on Dartmoor) trains farmers in self-assessment. So as not to lose budget to ‘experts’, do it ourselves.

  • Devise a website of information re Dartmoor plants and animals for farmers to use.

  • University students

  • There are maps but we may not have access to them and they may not be up to date

Q2 What would you like to see supported within the theme of promoting public access, enjoyment of the land and understanding?

  • Farm open days – host and sell stuff

  • See visitors as an opportunity

  • Flexible planning to create visitor infrastructure

  • Access agreements

  • Public toilets/shower units

  • Different Voice (DV): Public access can kill the biodiversity – how do we manage that?

  • Provide managed on farm camping, get rid of 28 day limitation

  • CRoW land should be paid for now

  • Provide parking

  • Snowman field

  • Should we be encouraging use of honey pot areas to spare other areas?

  • Better regulation enforcement of visitors

  • Farmers as P/T wardens

  • Enforce the existing rules/byelaws

  • Headage payment for visitors

  • We need better visitor education, finance farmers to deliver education and interpretation: signage, why not walk in certain areas, benefits of livestock farming to the moor, benefits of hill-farming

  • Planning which supports diversification outside of farming

Q3 What would you like to see supported within the theme of mitigating and adapting to climate change?

  • Restoring and enhancing peat – mechanical environmental grants for machinery needed to do peat restoration ourselves; sphagnum moss (likes open, wet, not overstocked)

  • Dartmoor mires project

  • Managed grassland

  • Woodland

  • Flood mitigation e.g. allow land to flood, slowing flow rate of streams

  • Water storage

  • Smaller fields with hedges

  • Water retention – allow grass to grow in the winter

Who would you go to for advice on this?

  • Mark Whiteside

  • Soil for Profit

  • We could form our own advisory committee

  • Create learning sites around Dartmoor

  • Dartmoor Hill Farm Project

  • The trouble is the advisors all have their own agendas and often disagree

  • Institute of Grassland Environmental Research

Q4 What would you like to see supported within the theme of cultural and natural heritage?

  • Stonewalls and hedges

  • Ponies

  • Rare breeds/ Regional breeds right for their environment e.g. Whiteface and Greyface Dartmoor, Welsh blacks, South Devon, Galloways

  • Hut circles/ stone rows

  • Traditional farmsteads

  • Us/hill-farmers

  • Commoning – use of in-by/common

  • Seasonal farming rhythms – the old ways

  • Use of hay meadows

Q5 What would you like to see supported within the theme of soil?

  • Appropriate soil depends on what someone wants from the land

  • Soil managed for outcomes such as desired plants

  • Water retention – introduction of beavers

  • Bacteria levels

Who would you go to for advice on this?

  • Google

  • Providers of soil analysis

Q6 What would you like to see supported within the theme of plant health – crops wild relatives of agricultural and horticultural plants?

  • Native crop-wild plant relatives whortleberries, wild apples

  • Meadow flowers and herbs

  • Trees like willow

Q8 How would you like to submit evidence under ELMs?

  • Apps for recording photos which plots position (GPS), date and time

  • Funding technology for farmers to report evidence themselves

  • Photography/videos

  • Third party assessment

  • Members of the public using a checklist

  • Volunteers from wildlife groups

  • Dartmoor knowledge hub

  • Baseline survey and then ongoing monitoring

  • Monitoring at different times of year is important

  • Submit evidence into an online system

  • Not Natural England

Q9 Who would you want to be responsible for distributing payment?

  • Not the National Park

  • More local

  • Dartmoor Commoner’s Council

  • Private company

  • Each Dartmoor quarter

  • Environmental NGOs

  • Does it matter as long as it’s the right people in the right places?

  • It’s quite good to have an outside person who has financial expertise

  • DV We need to think outside the box

  • National Park does not need more power

Questions from participants

  • How free are farmers really to manage land how they know it should be done to achieve outcomes? What if they need to do out-of-favour things e.g. swaling?

There isn’t a finalized ELMs scheme yet so there is currently no fixed position on ELMs management approaches. Everything is still being explored and evaluated though the Test and Trial and National Pilot process.

In our Dartmoor Test and Trial, as we explore how a scorecard and payments by results approach could work, one of the things we will be looking at is the use of positive indicators (what good species you have, for example) and also negative indicators (the presence of invasive species would be an example but “out-of-favour” management approaches might also be) and which indicators the Dartmoor farming community prefer. We will of course always be restricted to operating within the boundaries of national legislation.

  • What are the penalties? How will cross-compliance work?

Again, there isn’t a finished ELMs scheme yet so, as far as we’re aware, there are currently no set penalties. As we understand it how cross-compliance is managed is also under review, it could, for example, be included in the Tier 1 level of a future ELMs scheme or it could remain separate.

  • What is the cost of achieving a desired Outcome?

Costs and values of achievements and actions are one of the topics being examined through the Test & Trial process. A variety of different approaches are being explore and there may be some Test and Trials, such as the Yorkshire Dales payment by results pilot, which are already reporting costs but not all Test and Trials have reached this stage yet.

  • What is going to be done to ensure that the percentage taken by the landowner is not too big?

Defra has emphasized that it should be the active land manager who receives payment through ELMs and certainly in the Dartmoor Test and Trial one of the areas we will want to feedback to Defra on is the best approach to ensuring a fair distribution of payment.

As a Test and Trial we have already raised some of the difficulties around the tenant/commoner/landlord/land owner relationship with Defra, meeting with the ELM strategy team to specifically communicate these concerns. So the issue is on their radar and we'll keep it there in future reports.

  • What payments will be made in the time gap between now and outcomes, while changes are being put in place?

If this question relates to ELMs as a national scheme then please see the table below which outlines the Defra timeline from the current CAP based payment structures to ELMs. We understand the government are due to make an announcement with an update on the agricultural transition in the autumn. They’re working to ensure that people are supported during the move away from BPS.

If this question is about how a payments by results approach may work in theory as part of the Dartmoor Test & Trial then there are really two key points to consider. Firstly, farms and commons on Dartmoor will already be delivering a quantity of valuable public goods and so our approach, as we develop it, should be based on recognizing and rewarding the public goods that are already present. Secondly, that whilst we are trialing an approach where payments are linked more directly with outcomes that doesn’t mean a payments by results approach doesn’t recognise efforts along the way. To borrow an explanation from the Swiss govt. “Goals are in the future, you want to achieve them, the effort is directed towards them. In most cases the goal is reached at a later date than a result.”

  • What if some of the tasks that need to be done are unpopular with the public, e.g. vermin control

To act in a way which is pleasing to everyone is both very desirable and highly unlikely. A robust rationale for tasks combined with a clear communications strategy, outlining the rationale, are key. Enhancing the general public's understanding of agriculture is one of the reasons why public engagement is such a key strand within ELMs.

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