NFU Uplands Group chairman stands down
Published:  27 March, 2012

NFU Uplands Group chairman Will Cockbain has stepped down after eight years, the NFU has announced, with Exmoor farmer and South West Uplands Group chairman Robin Milton taking on the national chairmanship.

The Uplands Group supports tenants and hill farmers across diverse geographical regions, from Northumberland to Cornwall, representing their interests both nationally and internationally. It is attached to the Livestock Board and focuses on issues that affect upland farmers, debating the role they play in food production, sustainable intensification and maintaining iconic landscapes, as well as issues such as stocking densities and ‘productive’ farming.

Milton has been involved with the NFU for many years, first as a branch chairman and later as the chairman of the South-West Uplands Group, an area he has represented for the last three years on the national Uplands Group. He is also a member of the Exmoor National Parks Authority and chairs the National Park Management Plan Implementation Board. His mixed Aberdeen Angus, commercial sheep, arable and moorland farm near South Molton, which he runs in partnership with his brother, won the 2011 Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) North Devon Biosphere Award for Sustainable Farming.

Cockbain, who will be continuing to serve as a member of the group, thanked the staff for their support and said the decision had not been easy. He said that the board contained members with passion and energy, and it was only right that they had a chance to shape the group.

He said: “I am proud of what we have achieved in my time as Uplands spokesman, not least succeeding in getting a 30% increase in HFA payments for uplands farmers during the foot-and-mouth crisis, which was really vital for members.

Robin Milton commended Cockbain on his acheivements during his chairmanship, saying he was a very hard act to follow. Looking forward, he said his priority was to ensure that the CAP was fair to upland farming and was not forgotten during the negotiations.

He said “We’ve got a unique opportunity at the moment to influence changes and challenges ahead in the CAP reform and I am looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s a matter of tailoring the policy to suit the uplands, and highlight inconsistences and potential problems.

“I’d like to ensure that they are treated fairly, and that there is big enough recognition of the role upland farms play in landscape management.

“We need to champion what we can do and what we are doing – we have to be proactive in our lines of thought.”

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