A new report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England argues that farming in England needs to become more diverse to prove environmentally resilient and publicly accessible over the coming years.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Our 47,000 farmer members represent a diverse industry dedicated to feeding the nation and play a part in feeding the world, working with the natural environment – not against it.
“Our vision is for a dynamic productive and innovative food and farming sector, which is committed to delivering improvements in health, wealth and environment for the British public. Around 80% of England’s landscape character is now in stable or improving condition – take a walk down some of the 200,000km of public footpaths maintained by farmers to see. This is not a debate about large or small businesses, all farms contribute.
“The Treasury’s recent announcement promising EU funding until at least 2020 shows the long-term nature of the UK exiting the EU. This is why we’re taking the time to hear from the 47,000 farmers in membership whose lives Brexit will impact greatly. We launched the largest consultation on the industry’s future in the NFU’s history earlier this week. It’s a vital discussion to have and, like Brexit, it won’t happen overnight.
“Missing from the CPRE’s vision is food security which, in our view, should be considered to be a legitimate political goal and public good alongside the environment. British farmers are proud of the high standards of production, traceability of the food they produce and high animal welfare. British food production is the bedrock of the food and drink sector – which is the largest manufacturing sector in the country contributing £108 billion to the economy and employing nearly four million people. It’s important that we develop an ambitious agricultural policy that will stimulate a productive, competitive and profitable farming sector.
“All our survey work shows that the British public wants to buy more British food and, interestingly, survey work also shows the British public believes farmers play a beneficial role in improving the environment at the same time.”
British farming, which manages most of the iconic British countryside, takes its responsibilities for the environment seriously. CPRE’s suggestion that ‘industrialised’ farming has damaged its natural assets is a dated viewpoint and not one the NFU recognises.