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Countryside Agency chairman Ewen Cameron's comments at the Royal Show on the future of farming and the countryside:...
Countryside Agency chairman Ewen Cameron's comments at the Royal Show on the future of farming and the countryside:

The public's top priority for the future countryside - the environment - can only be delivered through a new contract with farmers ......the food you buy shapes our countryside.

Latest research shows that opinion formers have different priorities from

the public for the challenges facing the countryside. While the public

put environment top and the threat of suburbanisation next, before proper

access to services and then the future of farming, opinion leaders (rural

and urban) put farming top, according to Countryside Agency findings.

Yet in reality, the two are the means to each other, the Countryside

Agency, England's leading advisers on rural issues, warns today. The

public will not get a better environment or reduce the threat of

suburbanisation unless there is a radical overhaul of farming. People do

not understand the link between the products they buy and having an

attractive, economically vibrant countryside.

Ewen Cameron, Countryside Agency chairman and rural advocate said:

'Consumers need to better understand that what they buy has a direct impact

on the future of the English countryside; while farmers are paid for

producing in a sustainable fashion what the public want - high quality food

and a quality environment.'

Speaking at the Royal Agricultural Show in Warwickshire, he urged farmers

to re-engage with the public in a new contract to win back their

confidence: 'Our customers - the taxpaying public - want farmers to

continue as producers of high quality food, whilst increasingly delivering

other goods and services. But farmers need to earn a decent living for

the work they do - so environmental improvements must be paid for by the

urban majority, through the public purse or by a public willingness to pay

a fair price for food produced in an environmentally sound way.

'The imminent comprehensive spending review (CSR) provides a rare

opportunity to give a new direction to agriculture, to restore consumer

confidence in their food and meet the public's desire for conservation of

our countryside. By implementing the recommendations of the Curry

report*, environmental benefits can be delivered and farmers enabled to

move away from quantity to quality production.'

Mr Cameron continued: 'Some investment now will not only benefit our

landscape and bio-diversity, it will inject much-needed support into the

rural economy and give farmers new options to produce what the public want.

'Foot and mouth not only showed that the countryside matters to urban

people but demonstrated the huge importance of countryside visitors to the

modern rural economy,' he said as he pledged that the Countryside Agency

would do its part to strengthen the links between town and country, with

much of the work focused on the urban fringe where rural diversification

into the recreational, health and local produce markets have the greatest

potential to link town and country physically, socially and economically.

'We want the countryside not only to survive but to thrive. I do not want

to turn it into a rural playground for 'townies'. But farmers must adapt

to changing social and economic circumstances and work to become ever more

relevant to the life and well-being of the nation as a whole,' concluded

Ewen Cameron.

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