This part of the world is famous for there being more sheep than people, and the regional farming industry is an important element of both our economy and our geographical landscape too. Our open fellsides owe their attraction to sheep grazing. Farming communities are an important part of our social landscape.
The farming industry throughout the UK has been subsidised and protected over the years, and one area of agricultural reform, as voiced through DEFRA, falls under the umbrella of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, which propose the abolition of production subsidies, along with a big reduction in import tariffs. This is likely to have a dramatic impact upon the UK beef and sheep sectors, with forecasts of a reduction in UK sheepmeat production of 18%. (With sheepmeat imports up by 60%).
In areas, like the Lake District, with a dominance of hill-based sheep farming, this figure would be significantly higher than 18%, with the likelihood of many local sheep farmers simply being forced to leave the industry. DEFRA's stance on this is that it is "Designed to deliver lower food prices for consumers, significant savings for taxpayers, and a competitive agricultural industry not reliant on subsidies."
So, on the one hand, we have an industry which could be viewed as a secondary tax, and which DEFRA are determined to treat in exactly the same way as other sectors of UK production - all in the name of cheaper food, and the other side of the coin is much more complex.
Hill farming in this region isn't exactly an easy way to earn a living, and many of our farmers rely upon subsidies just to exist. An exodus of hill farmers leaving this region, would have far-reaching implications on local economies, social infrastructure, and environment too - all in the name of cheap meat. A loss of sheep grazing on the Lake District Fells would completely change the open landscapes enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of walkers each year, so what price cheap meat now?
Sea kayaking, hill walking, a bit of climbing and just taken up sailing.
Been in business in Carlisle for around 20 years (former Managing Director of Jack Wolfskin Ltd.), and a keen believer...