The NFU has hit back at Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson for penning an article which suggests the best way to save rural Britain is for the rich to buy up more land.

In his column in the Sunday Times on 29 July, Mr Clarkson said that if the land was in the hands of the rich they could manage it for aesthetic, rather than economic reasons.

“If the land is taken out of the hands of the farmers, who earn on average £10,000 a year, and bought by private individuals, the need to make money will be shoved aside by the need for better aesthetics,” he said.

“And not only would the countryside look better, there would be no overproduction of crops, no intensive farming, no need for set-aside payments, no more polythene or windmills.”

In response, Richard MacDonald, NFU director general, said the piece was comic journalism rather than a serious look at the issues facing the agricultural industry.

But he added: “Is he aware that farmers in this country produce 60% of the food we eat as well as carrying out more than £400m of unpaid work managing and maintaining the landscape, over and above their involvement in agri-environment schemes?

“Rather than advocating crazy schemes involving selling land to the rich as the way to save the countryside, Mr Clarkson should realize the vital role farming plays in regard to the economy, the environment and the countryside, as well as to our food supplies, and that without it everyone would be a loser – including him.”