Farmers do not need to be defensive about the taxpayers’ money they receive for delivering public goods.
But they do need to improve their communications, to explain the benefits, according to junior DEFRA minister Lord Rooker.

“People have to be told that our countryside is man-made,” Lord Rooker told a conference in London organised jointly by the NFU and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

“If farmers do not look after it, it will disappear. The fees paid – I don’t use the word subsidies – are a legitimate public expense.”

But farmers needed to explain the connection to society if they were to continue getting support, Lord Rooker told delegates at the Celebrations and Challenges conference on the future of farming.

He explained that while farming was still a major focus of government thinking, rural development was increasingly important as it sought to achieve a vibrant, working countryside.

To support this he was negotiating with the Treasury for match-funding of any money raised by modulation, although he warned this would not be easy.

Farmers would face increasing environmental demands but consumers also had a part to play in sourcing food locally, he added.