24 January 2001
‘Support sheep for green benefits’

By FWi staff

ECONOMISTS have been urged to persuade ministers to pay “pastoral” sheep farmers for the wider environmental and social benefits they bring the country.

National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley said farming was being damaged because economists were focusing on narrow economic arguments.

Mr Thorley said: “Currently we have a number of highly trained agricultural consultants advising farmers in lowland Britain to get out of sheep.”

He added: “They are doing this simply because they argue that sheep are not profitable – again the economic argument.”

A lack of sheep farmers would destroy the countryside as well as the businesses and livelihoods of people linked to farming, said Mr Thorley.

The remarks were made in a speech to the Animal Health Distributors Association conference in Blackpool, on Monday (22 January).

Consultants were not calculating the below-the-line benefit which accrues to the farm and its environs as a direct consequence of having sheep, he said.

Pastoral farmers cannot compete on cost with “industrial meats”, but were hard-pressed to obtain higher prices, Mr Morley told delegates.

“If government does take positive action, Im confident that our sheep industry will recover and our green and pleasant land will be maintained,” he said.