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March 13 2008

Hill-farming and rural poverty

Sir - There is a crisis in hill farming, touched on in Stuart Burgess's report on rural poverty, which Alice Thomson wrote about last week (Comment, March 7).

Thousands of acres of pasture are to be ploughed up to produce biofuels, not food. At the same time, British hill farmers are being squeezed out of business as a result of increasing numbers of failed and flawed government policies.

Hill farmers produce excellent meat on poor land, but have been badly hit by flawed policies on animal disease, failed IT systems for payments, huge burdens of regulation, and prescriptive, unworkable environmental schemes dictated by the likes of Natural England and the RSPB.

These have resulted in hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle being cleared from the uplands, leaving scrub. The Government is ruining sustainable systems of land management and livelihoods. Visitors ask: "Where have all the sheep gone?"

Suzanne Greenhill, Cockermouth, Cumbria