Food production must not be sidelined when the merits of subsidising farming under any new British agricultural policy post-Brexit are considered by government, the leader of the country’s farming union has said.
Meurig Raymond defended the industry’s record of delivering for the environment 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.
But Pembrokeshire farmer, Mr Raymond, who is president of the National Farmers’ Union, accused the Trust of trying to paint a picture of a damaged countryside - one that most farmers or visitors to the countryside will recognise.
He said: “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.
“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. We should not be contemplating doing anything which will undermine British farming’s competitiveness or its ability to produce food. To do so would risk exporting food production out of Britain and for Britain to be a nation which relies even further on imports to feed itself.”