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.
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