Investigating the future of farming in the North York Moors National Park
Since the referendum in 2016 and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the UK Government has been clear about its intention to reform agricultural policy that for the past 45 years has been developed within the Common Agricultural Policy. One element of this relates to changes in Environmental Land Management agreements whereby in future, farmers and land managers will be paid for providing environmental benefits (‘public goods’).
The North York Moors National Park Authority believe farmers and land managers within the North York Moors are well placed to deliver a range of public goods that society values. A need was therefore recognised to identify which public goods farmers and land managers were willing and able to deliver.
Working with the North York Moors National Park Authority, Service Insights Ltd collaborated to seek the views of as many farmers and land managers as possible across all farming sectors active within the National Park. This represented the first large scale consultation of its kind with the 1,021 commercial farm holdings and numerous non-commercial holdings within the North York Moors National Park.
An online and paper-based Snap survey was used to collect the feedback. This dual approach facilitated a broad platform for consultation to occur and maximise response rates. Paper copies were distributed via staff of partner organisations or taken to meetings where farmers and landowners attended, such as the Derwent Dales Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund Steering Group meeting. To increase flexibility, the paper survey also included a QR code to enable online capability.
The timing of the study fell at an important time of national change – the research was not only aimed in direct response to significant change presented through Brexit, but also through the public’s increasing awareness of climate change and, more recently, impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The research identified levels of agreement and willingness to deliver public goods across different farming sectors, land tenures, farm size, business income, and diversification. The work has been undertaken as part of the DEFRA Test and Trials process that will inform the future Environmental Land Management system and will help to inform wider debates on future funding and the role of farming in the UK.