14 April 1999
Sustainable farming ‘would benefit Britain’

By FWi staff

SUSTAINABLE farming would benefit British farmers because intensive systems have damaged the countryside, according to the OECD Agricultural Directorate.

Increased farm output has had mixed environmental effects, said Professor Wilfrid Legg, Head of Policies and Environment Division at the OECD Agriculture Directorate.

Rising agricultural productivity has pressured valuable natural resources, increased pollution and depleted landscape features, he said.

Prof Legg was speaking at the International ADAS Agriculture & the Environment Conference in Coventry today (Wednesday).

The need to create a sustainable global agriculture policy was in the long-term interest of British farmers, he told conference delegates.

Policy measures which subsidise agricultural outputs and inputs often under-value land and water resources, said Prof Legg.

Environmental damage from agriculture is not always charged and environmental services and rural amenities from agriculture are not always remunerated, he added.

“This can lead to distorted signals to farmers and an agricultural sector that is not sustainable in the long-term,” he said.

But the prospects for future sustainability are potentially encouraging, added Prof Legg, who highlighted the roles of research, information, advice and training to farmers.

“Increasingly these functions are focussing on improving environmental quality in agriculture,” he said.

“The emphasis has switched from increasing yields and output, to environmentally-friendly production systems.”