Land in the PDNP is poor quality for farming when compared with the rest of the UK. However, agriculture is important to the PDNP economy and brings in approximately £30 million per annum in public payments to the PDNP landscape.
Whilst 33% of the National Park is protected by site designations such as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), the rest of the National Park is unrestricted apart from regulations and legislation which apply to other farmers and land managers across the country such as planning and environmental impact regulations. Therefore, farming is the most significant industry for managing and influencing landscapes in protected areas and remains the centre of the PDNP economy.
# Agricultural land in the PDNP is generally poor quality especially when compared with other lowland areas in the UK
100% of the PDNP is classed as a Less Favoured Area for farming. The Less Favoured Areas in the PDNP consist of Severely Disadvantaged (86%) and Disadvantaged Areas (14%). They are mainly upland areas where the natural characteristics (geology, altitude, climate, etc.) make it difficult for farmers in these areas to compete.
Map to show the Less Favoured Areas in the PDNP
50% of the PDNP is also graded as the poorest quality land for the Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) in England. The majority of the PDNP has very poor agricultural land with over 90% of land either Grade 4 or 5 and no land categorised as Grade 2 or 1.
The ALC assessment includes climate (temperature, rainfall, aspect, exposure, frost risk), site (gradient, micro-relief, flood risk) and soil (depth, structure, texture, chemicals, stoniness) for which the PDNP and all upland areas in England score lower than other areas. The map below shows that the poorest quality (Grade 5) is found mainly in the moorland gritstone areas of the PDNP.
Map to show the ALC areas in the PDNP
ACL classification table Percentage of PDNP Land
# Agricultural land use is predominantly permanent grass and rough grazing
The Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) in the PDNP is 124,863 hectares or 87% of the PDNP. The UAA in the UK increased by 1.0% to 17.5 million hectares, covering 72% of land (2019). UAA is made up of arable and horticultural crops, uncropped arable land, common rough grazing, temporary and permanent grassland and land used for outdoor pigs. It does not include woodland and other non-agricultural land.
The majority of the farming land use in the PDNP is permanent grass and rough grazing or 91% of the total area. Data shows that permanent grass has been increasing from 67,191 hectares in 2009 with a percentage increase of 17% in 8 years. Data only relates to commercial holdings. If smaller land holdings were included, this proportion of land use would be even greater. In 2019, the proportion of utilised agricultural land used for grassland was 72% in the UK.
DEFRA Agricultural Census 2016 Land Use (Hectares)
Only 2% of the PDNP is crops and fallow (see table below), 69% of which is cereal crops. In the UK, 26% of the utilised agricultural area is cereal crop by comparison.
DEFRA Agricultural Census 2009-2016 Crops by (Hectares) Commercial Holdings
|Cereals||1 014||779||799||1 654|
|Other arable crops||259||206||419||674|
In the PDNP, the most significant agricultural activity is dairy farming and grazing livestock including sheep and cattle. Between 2009 and 2016, livestock numbers remained relatively stable for cattle with a decrease of 1%. Sheep are the most populous farming livestock (394,092) in 2016 showing an increase of 5% from 2009.
Poultry has shown the largest variation in stock levels with a 15% change from 2009. However, as there are relatively few poultry farm holdings (14 in 2016) with large populations of birds, the numbers will vary significantly.
DEFRA Agricultural Census 2009-2016 Livestock (Commercial Holdings)
|Dairy herd(c)||19 780||19 457||18 900||19 662|
|Beef herd(d)||15 813||16 749||15 783||15 359|
|Calves <1yr||27 928||22 078||26 713||27 690|
|Other cattle||29 611||37 361||30 385||29 057|
|Total cattle||93 131||95 644||91 782||91 768|
|Pigs: Breeding herd||551||848||799||879|
|Other pigs||15 724||22 298||22 796||16 910|
|Total pigs||16 276||23 146||23 595||17 789|
|Breeding ewes||167 981||165 930||186 552||183 589|
|Lambs under 1yr||193 974||187 141||200 909||201 614|
|Other sheep||13 009||13 843||9 866||8 889|
|Total sheep||374 964||366 914||397 327||394 092|
|Poultry: Total fowls||40 276||38 760||12 706||31 790|
|Other poultry||3 336||3 018||2 210||5 082|
|Total poultry||43 612||41 778||14 916||36 872|
|Horses||1 279||1 265||1 499||1 482|
Mapping the data at 5km grid squares shows that most activity is concentrated in the White Peak, where most of the farming land use is grassland for grazing or animal feed.
# Farm structures
The total farmed area of the PDNP has remained stable in the PDNP with only a small increase of 382 hectares since 2009. However, the total number of farm holdings had decreased by nearly 200 during the same time. The numbers of commercial dairy farms decreased by 78, or 35%, between 2009 and 2016.
DEFRA Agricultural Census 2009-2016 Number of Farm Holdings (Commercial Holdings)
|Number of holdings by farm type||2009||2010||2013||2016|
|LFA grazing livestock||904||968||957||966|
|Lowland grazing livestock||0||0||0||0|
# Smaller holdings
4 out of every 5 PDNP small farm holdings (<5ha) are not recorded in the agriculture statistics produced by DEFRA . These smaller holdings are less likely to have a large impact on the farming economy, but they have a large impact on the PDNP landscape. For context, the National Park Authority database shows there are more than 3,000 holdings . The average farm size in England is 86 hectares.
DEFRA Agricultural Census 2009-2016 All Holdings Vs Commercial Holdings
|Number of holdings by total area size groups||All holdings 2007||All holdings 2008||All holdings 2009||Commercial holdings 2009||Commercial holdings 2010||Commercial holdings 2013||Commercial holdings 2016|
|<5ha||961||1 015||1 070||213||97||100||120|
|20 < 50ha||381||372||368||337||295||279||339|
Results and data for 2010 onwards relate to commercial holdings only. Commercial holdings are those with significant levels of farming activity. These significant levels are classified as any holding with more than 5 hectares of agricultural land, 1 hectare of orchards, 0.5 hectares of vegetables or 0.1 hectares of protected crops, or more than 10 cows, 50 pigs, 20 sheep, 20 goats or 1,000 poultry.
# Farming income has reduced in recent years
Total income from farming decreased by 7% between 2014 and 2018 to £654 million for the East Midlands region . Out of all the English regions, the East Midlands has fared better, with some regions such as the North West of England seeing a decline of 54% over the same period. Average farm business income across all farm types in the UK was £50,400 in 2018/19; a 7% decrease compared to 2017/18. A key influencing factor in the decrease over the previous year was the weather: the very cold, late spring (the ‘beast from the east’) and the extremely hot, dry summer. This reduced crop yields, although this was offset to some extent by price rises for many crops.
These increased prices had a knock-on effect for livestock farms who, in addition to contending with the difficult conditions, experienced substantially higher feed costs with many also needing to purchase more feed. And in 2018/19, average farm business income was lower for dairy, grazing livestock, both lowland and those in Less Favoured Areas such as the PDNP, pig and poultry farms .
On dairy farms, average income decreased by 33% to £79,700, driven by higher input costs, particularly feed influenced by the lack of grazed forage again due to the weather conditions and increased cereal prices. Notable increases to feed costs were also a major influence on average incomes for grazing livestock farms, which fell by 39% for lowland farms to £12,500 and 42% for those in Less Favoured Areas to £15,500 [6:1].
Average FBI broken down by cost centre for livestock farms 2018/19 (£)
For Less Favoured Area (LFA) grazing livestock farms, the average income fell by 42% to £15,500 between 2017/18 and 2018/19. A fall in agricultural output of 5% was largely driven by lower average prices compared to 2017/18, particularly for store cattle, ewes and ewe hogs. For sheep, average stocking numbers per farm also fell, in part reflecting the challenging weather conditions and compounded by an increase in agricultural costs [6:2].
# Basic Payment Scheme
The Basic Payment Scheme brings approximately £20 million a year to PDNP farmers and land managers. The LFA Grazing Livestock category is the most representative of PDNP farms and clearly demonstrates the importance of the Basic (Single) Payment Scheme and agri-environment support in terms of farm income.
# Agri-environment schemes
Payments under the agri-environment schemes in the United Kingdom rose by £8 million (1.7%) to £449 million, while Less Favoured Area Support Scheme payments fell by £20 million (-27%) to £52 million. In 2019, Environmental Stewardship (ES) brought in approximately £7.4 million of annual funding from Natural England to the PDNP National Park (£50 million for all national parks in England).
Environmental Stewardship 2019: cost, area and number of agreements in the PDNP
These ES schemes cover approximately 46% of the PDNP or 53% of the UAA. When Countryside Stewardship is included, the combined agri-environment land coverage is 61% in the PDNP (not including woodland schemes, Conservation and Enhancement Agreements, Wildlife Enhancement Scheme Agreements and Nature Improvement Areas).
Total income from Environmental Stewardship PDNP 2013-2019 (£)
The Countryside Stewardship Scheme is the current agri-environment scheme for England and consists of two tiers, a Mid-Tier and a Higher Tier. In 2020, the live agreements for Countryside Stewardship accounted for 10,000 hectares in the PDNP. The majority were for Higher and Mid-Tier payments. The Environmental Stewardship Scheme closed to new applicants in 2014, but existing agreements continue to be managed until they reach their agreed end date and it remains the main scheme on which payments are made. In 2019, ES payments in England totalled £386 million.
Countryside Stewardship Live Agreements by Area 2020 (hectares)
|Higher Tier||Mid-Tier||Historic Building Restoration||Hedgerows and Boundaries||Implementation Plan||Woodland Management Plan|
# The future of public payments
Farmers in England will see Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) funding phased out and new agri-environment funding rolled in over a seven-year transition period under proposals outlined in the Agriculture Bill. BPS money will be reduced in stages from 2021-2027, with none available in 2028. The cuts have been announced for 2021 but no figures are available beyond that. Businesses receiving up to £30,000 in BPS will face a reduction of up to 5%, with those receiving £150,000 or more seeing a reduction of 25% in 2021 .
The new environmental land management system will replace BPS and Countryside Stewardship funding and its rollout is planned from 2024-2027. It will pay farmers for environmental services and benefits, with pricing based on a natural capital valuation approach.
# Agricultural employment
Using the IDBR national parks data, we see that employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing has remained stable between 2016 and 2019. This could indicate that the decrease in the income of farming nationally has not affected the PDNP as much as it has the more intensive, larger farm holdings outside of protected landscapes. However, this is not conclusive and further data is needed to see the full picture.
ONS IDBR Employment and Employees in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 2016-2019
# Agricultural labour force
At least one in every 10 jobs in the PDNP is in farming, showing how important the sector is to the local area. In 2016, the Defra census showed there were 3,064 individuals employed in the farming industry. This is approximately 16% of the total estimated people in employment in the PDNP. However, this is just an an estimate due to the way that employment is counted by the IDBR  and having to compare two data sets (IDBR shows 12% in agriculture, forestry & fishing 2019).
DEFRA Agricultural Census 2009-2016 Commercial Holdings Labour in Farming – number of people
|Farmers full time||1,194||1,209||1,285||1,247|
|Farmers part time||1,045||1,136||1,188||1,122|
|Salaried managers full time||16||13||28||37|
|Salaried managers part time||10||6||6||18|
|Employees full time||196||211||226||196|
|Employees part time||296||264||262||260|
55% of commercial farm holdings in the PDNP were rented in 2016.
Defra Agricultural Census 2016: Proportion of rented and owned farm holdings by hectares
In 2018/19, total income from diversified activities was £740 million, a 6% increase from 2017/18 [6:3]. Nationally, 65% of farms had some form of diversified activity to provide wider economic opportunity to support farming families and the rural economy. The main diversified activity is letting out buildings for non-agricultural use; when this is excluded, the proportion of farms with some other diversified activity was 46%.
Farm Business Income 2018/19 Diversification
|Diversified activities farms engage in||No. of farms||% of farms||Total farm business income (£m)||Income of diversified enterprise (£m)||Average enterprise income (£/farm)|
|Diversified enterprises (all kinds)||37,400||65%||2,287||740||19,800|
|letting buildings for non-farming use||25,200||44%||1,753||454||18,000|
|processing/retailing of farm produce||5,800||10%||353||89||15,300|
|sport and recreation||7,100||12%||540||37||5,200|
|tourist accommodation and catering||3,700||7%||216||33||9,000|
|other sources of renewable energy(a)||5,800||10%||487||56||9,600|
|other diversified activities||5,900||10%||318||39||6,600|
The proportion of farms generating solar energy in 2018/19 was 20%, while those generating other sources of renewable energy accounted for 10% of farms. 7% of farms nationally have diversified into tourist accommodation and catering. The PDNP high quality landscape and environment means this proportion will be much higher in the local area.
# Farming succession
Agriculture typically has an aging workforce. In the UK, around a third of all holders were over the typical retirement age of 65 years while the proportion of young people aged less than 35 years was around 3% . In terms of farm succession, the Farm Business Survey showed that 44% had a nominated successor in 2018/19. This was slightly higher than in previous years [6:4]. However, the FBI also shows that, nationally, larger farms are more likely to have a successor nominated than small farms.
# Environmental impacts from farming are a result of a complex combination of farm business structure, income, land use, production & input use
As well as being vital for food production, agriculture helps to shape the landscape, providing important recreational, spiritual and other cultural benefits. This can be viewed in terms of delivering vital ecosystems services, with food production being a provisioning service whilst other environmental and societal benefits are delivered by, for example, cultural and regulating services [9:1].
# Pesticide usage
Pesticide usage in the PDNP will be low by virtue of the small area of land used for farming crops. The need for pesticide usage varies from year to year depending on growing conditions, particularly the weather, which influences disease, weed and pest pressures.
In the UK, the treated area of arable crops (number of hectares multiplied by number of applications) has remained relatively stable since 2008, whilst the total weight of pesticide applied has shown an overall decline from 1990 [9:2].
# Water use and quality
It is estimated that 450 billion litres of water is extracted per year from reservoirs in the PDNP, providing 4 million people with fresh drinking water every year. A much smaller proportion is abstracted for agriculture. In 2017, less than 1% of the total water abstracted in England was attributed to agriculture, most of which took place in the south and east of the country.
# Fertiliser use
For grasslands, nutrient application rates have always been lower than for cropped land. Between 1990 and 2019, there has been a downward trend in the overall mineral nitrogen application rate on grassland. In 2019, the rate was 54 kg/ha.
Provisional estimates for 2018 show that the nitrogen balance for the UK was a surplus of 91.8 kg/ha on managed agricultural land. This is an increase of 1.3 kg/ha (+1.5%) compared to 2017. Even with the slight increase in 2018 estimates, the longer-term trend represents a reduction of 19.3 kg/ha (-17%) compared to 2000.
The UK phosphorus balance was estimated to be a surplus of 6.8 kg/ha of managed agricultural land in 2018; the longer term trend is downward, again with similar drivers as nitrogen [9:3].
# Emissions from farming
Agriculture accounts for approximately 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Three greenhouse gasses emitted by agriculture are nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide. In the PDNP, 37% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from methane (60% when large single sources are removed from the data), of which, 81% comes from farming and agriculture.
UNCE Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions CO2 CH4 N20 & CO2 equivalent tonnes
|UNCE Sector||Carbon||Methane||Nitrous Oxide||CO2 equivalent|
|Agriculture, Forestry and Landuse Change||31.9||218,858.0||70,773.0||289,662.7|
|Proportion of total PDNP emissions||0%||81%||85%||64%|
When methane emissions are plotted (see map below), we see that it is predominantly highest in areas of the White Peak and South West Peak. The majority (nearly 90%) of methane emissions from agriculture arise from enteric fermentation (digestive processes) in ruminating animals, with manure management practices accounting for the remainder [9:4].
In the PDNP, nitrous oxide emissions are also highest from the agricultural sector (84% of all NO2 emissions). Nearly 90% of agricultural nitrous oxide emissions come from soils, particularly as a result of nitrogen fertiliser application, manure (both applied and excreted on pasture) and leaching/run-off. In the UK (2018), nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture are estimated to have fallen by 17% since 1990 and 12% since 2000. This is consistent with trends in fertiliser usage over the same period [9:5].
Methane (Agriculture) Emissions Map PDNP Units t/1x1km
Source: Emission Map Data for Methane in 2018 (CORINAIR SNAP SECTOR 10: Agriculture, Forestry and Landuse Change) (opens new window) Data plotted as Natural Jenks (not normalized). The agriculture sector has a high level of uncertainty associated with its emissions and even though all the data is collected and originally produced outputs of the data in 1x1km, due to non-disclosure constraints, the data have been aggregated at 5x5km resolution. As a result, by evenly distributing the 5x5km maps in 1x1km maps, there is a loss in data quality. Therefore, this map is best used as a general spatial trend of methane emissions
# Farmland birds and biodiversity
Between 1970 and 2018, populations of farmland bird specialists declined by about 70% whereas farmland bird generalists have declined by about 14%. The 2018 index for all farmland bird species was a decrease at 44.5 compared to 2017 and is less than half of its level in 1970.
What are the gaps in our research & data?
- We need more data about the health of soils.
- There is a lack of clarity about the future environmental land management scheme.
Note: In 2011/12, SACs and the SPA covered 47,100 hectares (33% of the National Park) ↩︎
Provisional Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) (England): https://naturalengland-defra.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/5d2477d8d04b41d4bbc9a8742f858f4d_0 ↩︎
DEFRA Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/structure-of-the-agricultural-industry-in-england-and-the-uk-at-june ↩︎
PDNPA, Database search (2016) ↩︎
Defra Statistics: Agricultural Facts England Regional Profiles: https://./img.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/866807/regionalstatistics_overview_20feb20.pdf ↩︎
Farmers Weekly: https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/payments-schemes/environmental-schemes/environmental-land-management-scheme-what-we-know-so-far ↩︎
ONS IDBR: https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/paidservices/interdepartmentalbusinessregisteridbr ↩︎