A Tory government would make reversing the decline in agricultural production an over-riding priority, shadow farm minister Jim Paice has said.

Addressing problems like TB, electronic identification of sheep, disease cost-sharing, and affordable rural housing would also be high on the agenda.

Mr Paice said he was already working on a solution to TB.

“We can’t have this wanton destruction of cattle with no gain – culling badgers has to be part of the solution.”

Discussions on cost sharing would have to continue if the Conservatives won the next election, but not in their current form, he added.

“We are absolutely not committed to what the government is proposing, but we need to do something, and that has got to start with proper policy sharing, not cost sharing as the government is currently doing.”

The Tories were also proposing radical plans to tackle the chronic shortage of rural housing, said Mr Paice.

This would involve the creation of local housing trusts, run by local people, to help increase the number of affordable rural homes.

Trusts would have the freedom to develop homes by purchasing cheap land which would otherwise not be developed and to grant their own planning permission.

“We need vibrant rural communities and that means we’ve got to enable young people to stay in areas where they grew up.”

Retiring tenant farmers also needed to be provided for, he added.

“We don’t want villages to be frozen in time – if we can allow them to grow by, say 10% over a decade, it won’t destroy the village and it could be a lifeline for services like buses, schools and so on.

“I think this is a genuine step forward and I’m very excited by it.”

Ian Bell, fund director at the charity ARC Addington Fund, said local housing trusts could be an extremely valuable step-change in rural housing provision.

“We have got lots of landowners who are willing to donate land – the stumbling block is always in getting planning permission.”