An overwhelming majority of people want more agricultural support directed at sustainable farming practices, reveals a survey.
Some 84% of British adults believe farmers have a responsibility to look after the landscape and wildlife for future generations, says the poll.
Carried out for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), it found that just 17% of adults would accept a more industrialised farming sector.
Some 78% of respondents said they wanted farmers to get more support to carry out environmentally sustainable farming practices.
Publication of the survey results was timed to coincide with the launch on Monday (9 January) of the CPRE’s vision for the future of farming.
The document outlines the changes to farming practices and agricultural policy that the conservation charity would like to see by 2026.
It wants farmers who undertake additional environmental measures on their land to benefit from a price premium.
Fairer milk prices for dairy farmers, for example, would help reverse the decline in pasture-based family farms, thereby maintaining traditional landscapes.
Rather than largescale intensive units, the CPRE vision paints a picture of a future where most pigs and poultry are reared free range and outdoors.
CPRE senior farming campaigner Ian Woodhurst said: “People clearly want the environmentally sustainable future for farming set out in our vision.
“There are huge challenges, including growing populations, increasing demand for land and natural resources, and pressures due to climate change.
“But we must find ways to cope with these challenges if we are to secure a living, thriving rural landscape.”
Given recent calls to increase food production and productivity, the survey findings provided timely food for thought, said Mr Woodhurst.
Such a move would present challenges for the environmental sustainability of farming, necessitating a fresh debate on farmland management
“We need to be ambitious if we are to ensure we have both a vibrant farming sector and a beautiful countryside alive with wildlife.”
The government, farmers, the food industry and environmental groups would all need to work together to ensure the public’s aspirations were realised.