National Sheep Assn defends role of sheep in the uplands

The NSA have just issued this press release (25th July 2016) in advance of the launch of their new report The Complementary role of sheep in upland and hill areas – possibly with the new Defra Sec of State’s early statement that
farmers “with big fields do the sheep and those with hill farms do the butterflies” in mind?

“Sheep farming in UK upland and hill areas provides a wide range of public goods and services, from food production and environmental stewardship to landscape management and cultural heritage. To promote understanding of this complex jigsaw, and respond to criticisms from some conservationists, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has released a special report to raise awareness.

The Complementary role of sheep in upland and hill areas report will be launched this Wednesday (27th July) at the NSA Sheep Event, a premier one-day show bringing together sheep farmers, service providers and industry stakeholders at Malvern, Worcestershire. Four farmers from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will speak at the launch, explaining the unique role of sheep in every corner of the UK. They will discuss the three pillars of sustainability for the sector, which are economic, environmental and societal.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, explains: “NSA has produced the report because this sector, that is so traditional yet still acts as a cornerstone of much of the modern UK sheep industry, continues to come under threat from many quarters. Much of this is due to misguided policy direction and a lack of understanding of the many ‘by products’ of upland sheep farming. These public goods go beyond its core agricultural outputs of food and wool; they include its foundation of fragile rural economies and communities, its creation and maintenance of landscapes and environments, and its contribution to tradition and heritage.

“All of this adds to our ecosystems and our sense of enjoyment and wellbeing, yet is rarely recognised or valued. Our aim is to convince decision makers of the unique contribution upland sheep farming provides and also to set some challenges to the industry itself by offering a strategic direction that should safeguard its future.”

NSA believes the timing of this report is crucial, given the difficult decisions needing to be made over the future of agricultural support once the UK leaves Europe.

Mr Stocker continues: “This report will form the basis of many of the conversations we have over the coming months, as it is important the hills and uplands, home to some of the most iconic landscapes in the UK, are not forgotten in the Brexit discussions. There has never been a more important time to understand the tri-fold contribution of economic, environmental and societal benefits.”

The report will be launched at 11am on Wednesday 27th July, when it will be available to view at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/policy-work .

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