28 May 1999

CPRE:Give public a vibrant countryside

A SUCCESSFUL future for most farmers will increasingly depend more on providing the countryside that the public wants than on production efficiency, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) believes.

Alastair Rutherford, CPREs head of rural policy, said competing directly on global markets with a "bigger is better" approach to future business development is unrealistic for the majority of Englands farmers.

Speaking at the NFUs Farming Economy Conference at Stoneleigh last week, Mr Rutherford said a prosperous future for Englands farmers was dependent on a beautiful, diverse and vibrant countryside.

"A more competitive market environment lies ahead. And a successful future for most farmers will increasingly depend more on meeting what society wants from the countryside than producing ever more basic agricultural products at ever lower costs of production."

Instead of looking at production efficiency as the only goal, successful farm business strategies would instead exploit social changes.

The country now has a better educated, richer and more discerning population who showed greater interest in the way food is produced and in the environmental implications.

"Marketing and sustainably exploiting a high-quality rural environment will be an important dimension to an increasing number of farming enterprises," Mr Rutherford said.

That could be through the better marketing of goods associated with a high-quality environment, entering agri-environment schemes, sustainable diversification, or a combination of these.

"The common theme of all of these options is the close relationship and dependence of a vibrant farming sector on a beautiful, diverse and high-quality rural environment," he said. &#42