National Parks England is calling for the Government to protect the future of farming as new figures show agri-environment agreement land use has fallen by 20 per cent since 2015.

These agreements enable farmers and land managers to farm in a sustainable way that supports and enhances natural capital assets such as biodiversity and landscape quality, as well as air, water and soil quality amongst others.

The decline in agreements, which in some cases is as high as 30 per cent, is not just a potential environmental problem, but it may also have an economic impact on the local communities living in National Parks.

This decline is slightly less in the south west, but a 17 per cent drop in use on both Dartmoor and Exmoor land still raises cause for concern.

In response to these figures, National Parks England has devised a three-point plan that will secure the continued security and productivity of farm businesses as they transition from Countryside Stewardship, the current set of agri-environment schemes, to the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS).

National Parks England is calling for:

1) Higher Level Stewardship schemes to roll over

2) A review of the Countryside Stewardship scheme

3) The inclusion of all National Parks in the pilot scheme for ELMS.

Margaret Paren, chair of National Parks England, said: “Getting ELMS right in National Parks is critical, as farming is central to the fabric of our National Park landscapes and the wider rural economy.

"We are encouraged by the Government’s stated objectives for ELMS, but we cannot wait until 2027; we must act now to ensure we do not see environmental damage to our most treasured landscapes as land comes out of agri-environment agreements.

"We need to secure a viable future for our farmers that combines high-quality food production with provision of public goods such as better biodiversity and high-quality landscapes. We have highlighted some suggested changes and are keen to work with colleagues in Defra and Natural England to address this issue.”

National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the country, and farming is fundamental to their distinctive character and to delivering many of their special qualities, for people to enjoy today and tomorrow. National Parks England wants to ensure that the irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage of these landscapes continues to be conserved and enhanced following the country’s departure from the Common Agricultural Policy.