22 January 2001
Agency urges new farming world

By Johann Tasker

THE governments advisory body on the English countryside has called for a new approach to farming, moving further away from subsidised food production.

The Countryside Agency issued the call in its Strategy for the Countryside, a 28-page document launched on Monday (22 January).

“Moving further from production support towards payments for environmental and rural development would benefit the countryside,” it said.

The agency will pilot a new approach to integrated rural development projects addressing the environment, the economy and local communities.

Nine land management initiatives across contrasting landscapes and farming situations will point the way to a new approach to farming subsidies.

“We will make the case, through demonstration and analysis, for switching subsidies from production to payments for environmental and social benefits.”

The nine initiatives aim to show that farming systems can respond to the changing demands of agriculture and maintain a healthy rural economy.

They include the Eat the View programme which encourages consumers to buy products which reinforce the character of rural areas.

Other initiatives will be targeted, including Integrated Crop Management, to promote more diverse arable systems and reduce agricultural inputs.

In partnership with the English Tourism Council, the agency will also promote tourism projects to encourage conservation of local landscapes.

Speaking at the launch in London, rural advocate and Countryside Agency chairman Ewen Cameron pointed towards huge pockets of rural deprivation.

“Englands countryside is rapidly changing, for better or worse,” he said.

The challenges facing the countryside are far wider than the current farming crisis or the future of hunting. It is a complex picture.”