The only way to maintain Bodmin Moor's unique landscape was by grazing livestock – and farmers needed to make money out of it to survive, said Steve Nancekivell.
He was speaking at the conference to represent Bodmin Moor's 360 commoners, and he was remarkably upbeat.
"We are in a better position than we have been for a long time, and I am very optimistic about the future of hill farming," he said.
But there were problems, particularly with the Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which was badly under-funded.
"Let's not try to re-invent the wheel ... it's a funding issue and not a scheme issue," he insisted.
Mr Nancekivell spoke about the "fickle nature" of exchange-rate shifts affecting subsidy payments, and concerns about uncertainties surrounding CAP reform.
The two pilot schemes run by Dartmoor Farming Futures were described by its chairman, Colin Abel. There was "a long way to go" with both schemes, where farmers decide on land management and monitor developments, he said. "But I see this as an opportunity to change the balance, because farmers and their decisions are essential to deliver a satisfactory working moor – and past policies have been too prescriptive."
Kate Harris, of the Exmoor Hill Farming Project, described how over three years her scheme had helped 600 participants, with farm walks, demonstrations, and expert speakers. There had been visits to Wales and Cumbria, a healthy livestock scheme and a mentoring scheme matching experienced farmers with new entrants. "Most of all, what we have discovered is the drive and determination of young farmers," she said.