Conservative Party review concludes farmers’ role must change

The man who is advising the Conservative Party on its future environmental and agricultural policy has said that farmers of the future will have a completely different role.

John Gummer, chairman of the Quality of Life Policy Group set up by Tory leader David Cameron, told visitors to the Royal Show on Tuesday (3 July) that the starting point of his report was that climate change changed everything.

“There is no way in which previous policies, right across the board, can merely be tinkered with and accelerated or slowed down simply to meet so huge a challenge,” he said.

Mr Gummer said the report, which is still at draft stage, took a holistic view of agriculture and the land, rather than adopting the standpoint of either farmers, environmentalists or country people.

“We’ve got to understand again the meaning of the land which we farm and use and in the context of climate change recognise that it is going to have to recover a whole series of roles which it has lost.

“First of all it has got to recover its own strength. It’s a very sad fact that we’ve had significant reductions in the quality of our land and our soil over recent years.

“One of the things we are looking at is how we are going to manage the weather we have, because we have created a land that is much less able to deal with rain, especially when it comes down in concentrated amounts.

“We may have very little difference in the rainfall, but we certainly have a difference in the way it falls.

“We see it very necessary that farmers and landowners are going to have to play a very different role. They won’t be park keepers or food producers – they will be both of those and flood managers. They will be people who will be properly recognised for looking after the land and, if I dare say, paid for it.”

During an hour long presentation, Mr Gummer said that food security was a crucial part of any policy on climate change.

He also claimed that people who argued for repatriation of agricultural policy were wrong.

“There is no doubt at all that unless we get a kind of common deal in the EU farmers will get no money at all. No British government of any kind is prepared to foot the bill. Anybody who dares to talk about repatriation doesn’t care about farming because you won’t have it.”

Jim Paice, Conservative agricultural spokesman, said that Mr Gummer’s report would pass to his front bench team in the summer to be considered.

“I want to rebutt the view that the only way for the future is to get back to the past. We’ve got to face up to these huge challenges.”

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