By FWi staff

EFFICIENT food production, not looking after the environment, is the way to secure farmings future, outspoken economist Séan Rickard has told farmers.

Politicians have said replacing direct payments with subsidies linked to looking after the countryside will lead to sustainable farming.

But that was “dangerous rubbish”, said Mr Rickard, former NFU chief economist now based at the Cranfield School of Management.

Subsidies would not survive expansion of the EU and moves towards freer trade led by the World Trade Organisation, he told the National Sheep Association conference in Malvern on Wednesday (7 November).

He predicted they would go completely within the next 10 to 20 years, and the trend for fewer but bigger farms would continue.

“The future will be shaped by the fact you are first and foremost producers of food. If you are not efficient producers you are going to have a very difficult future.”