EU member states must convince the general public of all that farmers have to offer if they are to win support for future payments under the Common Agricultural Policy.
Speaking at the Royal Bath & West Show, Martin Scheele, directorate-general for agriculture in the EU, said there were a number of aspects to be addressed through the CAP.
He highlighted food security, food quality, sustainability, carbon emissions, environmental security, biodiversity, rural vitality and cultural heritage.
The online consultation on the future of the CAP, which closed on 3 June, would help to shape EU policy and would be published in November.
But the public had to be convinced of the benefits provided by farmers if they were to support future single farm payments, he added.
John Mortimer, south-west director of the Country Land and Business Association, said ongoing single payments were essential to the survival of farming across Europe.
“Without them, most farming businesses across Europe would go bust. For seven of the past 11 years agriculture in the UK would have been in negative profit without support.”
Public goods, like landscape, clean water, food and environmental security, were very difficult to price – but without farmers, all would suffer, he added.
“We need to persuade people that the money being devoted to farming is correct and viable. It is important that they recognise that it is not just about food security; it is about the public and environmental goods farmers provide.”
The CAP only accounted for 1% of Europe’s public expenditure, but was often massively inflated in peoples’ perception, said Mr Mortimer.
“It is a very small amount of money when you think about what’s at stake. During the next couple of years we need to have convinced the member states and the voters that it is right to continue funding our food and environmental security.”