Advisor calls for radical action


27 June 2001



Advisor calls for radical action



By Johann Tasker

RURAL advisors have warned the government that radical changes are urgently needed to secure the future of the countryside.

The Countryside Agency issued the warning at the launch of its Strategy for Sustainable Land Management in England on Wednesday (27 June).

The document was released the day after the Scottish Executive suggested that farmers could be paid to make bagpipes in order to keep them on the land.

Countryside Agency chairman Ewen Cameron said: “If we are to save agriculture from becoming a sunset industry, we need to take action now.”

He added: “We need to bring farmers in from the cold. It is time to re-engage farmers in a new contract with the public.”

The strategy recommends that farmers should be subsidised to deliver a wide range of benefits beyond food and fibre production.

Local authorities would draw up contracts with farmers to promote beneficial practices such as conservation, biodiversity, landscape character and recreation.

Even before foot-and-mouth disease, British farming was in its worst recession since the 1930s, said Mr Cameron.

Farmers have found themselves ever more marginalised from a society suspicious of their produce, he added.

A recent survey showed that much of the land sold last year was bought by non-farmers rather than existing producers hit by hard times.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he wants to work out a sustainable way forward for Britains farming industry.

Mr Cameron said the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be transformed into a new system of aid encouraging sustainable management.

Subsidies should be reoriented so that only one third of Britains 3bn annual CAP budget is spent on farm income and market support by 2010, he said.

The remaining two thirds of the CAP budget should be split equally between agri-environment schemes and rural development, said Mr Cameron.

“We need to design new mechanisms which will deliver these benefits, while at the same time encouraging enterprise and innovation.”

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