Trust's vision is '˜a one leg stool'

The National Trust's vision for a post-Brexit agricultural policy is 'like a one leg stool', claimed tenant farming chief George Dunn.

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association.

It comes after Dame Helen Ghosh, general director of the National Trust, said public subsidies should only be paid to farmers for managing the countryside in a wildlife-friendly way.

Dame Helen had said that decades of post-war intensification backed by subsidies had produced a “double whammy” of harming wildlife, leaving 60 per cent of the UK’s studied species in decline and soils damaged.

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Mr Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, said: “The National Trust has focused on the need to ensure that there is support only for environmental outcomes in the post-Brexit environment.

“The TFA agrees that around a third of the current annual budget spent through the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) should be earmarked for a brand-new, outcome focused agri-environment scheme which rewards active farmers for their labour, management and investment in managing land for biodiversity, landscape and nature. However, this is only one part of what is required.”

Meurig Raymond, the president of the National Farmers’ Union, has meanwhile accused the Trust of trying to paint a picture of a damaged countryside.

“Farmers have planted or restored 30,000km of hedgerows for example and have increased the number of nectar and pollen rich areas by 134 per cent in the past two years,” he said.

“Farmers take their responsibilities as custodians of the countryside seriously and most visitors to the countryside will be enjoying the natural environment and appreciating the views of rural Britain which have been created by farmers - including many of the landscapes showcased by the National Trust.

“In this debate we must not forget that food production is vital.”

The Tenant Farming Association published its post-Brexit agricultural policy in April and updated it June before Mr Dunn spoke about it at the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate last month.

Its policy argues for three distinct elements of a new policy which adds business resilience and market development alongside a package of agri-environment measures.

“Post-Brexit Government policy for agriculture must address all of the market failures that exist and not just the provision of environmental public goods,” Mr Dunn said.

“The declining share of national income spent on primary food products, the structure of food marketing creating an unfair trading platform for farmers, long-term food security and uneven production standards all need to be addressed. Focusing only on domestic environmental outcomes would be a huge mistake.”

Mr Dunn said a farm business development grant scheme was also needed to provide capped funding for farmers to help implement approved plans for greater business resilience covering fixed equipment, cost reduction initiatives, additional processing capacity, diversification, marketing, cooperative initiatives, producer organisations, climate change adaptation and environmental improvement.