The conservation work carried out by farmers outside of the framework of agri-environment schemes is worth £400m/yr, according to a new report.

The NFU and Campaign to Protect Rural England have joined forces to highlight the hidden contribution of producers to preserving the countryside.

The two organisations have together produced a report, Living Landscapes, which provides the first estimate of the cost of the work that England’s farmers and agricultural workers do in conserving and managing the country’s much loved and hugely valuable rural scenery.

A survey measuring the landscape conservation work not covered by agri-environment schemes worked out at £2,410 per year for the average English farm.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: ‘We need policy-makers and policy-influencers to understand that there is much, much more to being a farmer than being a least-cost producer of food.

‘If economics was everything, many of the things people loved about the countryside would be under threat in the name of efficient production. The fact that they remain is because farmers instinctively understand the wider cultural and environmental significance of what goes to make up our landscapes.’

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: ‘Amid all the talk of globalisation and increased competitiveness in agriculture, our farmers will need to be supported to look after our beautiful countryside.

“The government must realise that there’s no such thing as a free hedgerow when it comes to farmers looking after the wider countryside. We need to make sure they can continue this crucial role, because if they don’t who will?”