Food production 'should not be overlooked' in new agricultural policy

The Countryside Alliance said any new agricultural policy must help create a profitable farming industry
The Countryside Alliance said any new agricultural policy must help create a profitable farming industry

Food production and competitive farming should not be overlooked in any future farming policy, according to the Countryside Alliance.

The rural organisation has called for food production to be at the heart of new agricultural policy in written evidence submitted to Defra’s Health and Harmony consultation on the future of farming.

The consultation, which closed on 8 May and received 44,000 submissions, is designed to inform the government’s thinking on how to structure a new agricultural policy outside of the EU.

It has called on the government to prioritise improved productivity and competitiveness in any new policy and target support towards preserving rural resilience.

Traditional farming and landscapes in the uplands must also be preserved, as well as supporting high animal health standards.

The Countryside Alliance has also stated that there is an argument to be made for including certain types of food production within the definition of public good.

The government is looking to move support payments away from direct subsidies and towards payments for providing public goods once the UK leaves the EU.

Organisations and groups have debated what public goods farmers should be paid for, with some arguing it should be directed more towards environmental measures.

'Farming is central'

Sarah Lee, Countryside Alliance Head of Policy said farming is central to the economic and social life of many rural communities in the UK.

“It is vital that a new agricultural policy helps to create a profitable farming industry, which is also capable of delivering the public goods which the Government wants to see,” Ms Lee explained.

“As well as support payments helping to keep livestock on the hills, they also help to keep the local school open and provide employment in the wider rural economy from shops and garages to hotels and pubs.

She added: “The importance of support payments to farmers needs to be recognised when developing a new agricultural policy as without this support many of our most rural communities and iconic landscapes face an uncertain future.”

Farmers, food producers, environmentalists and those in the wider industry shared their views with government on everything from the support it gives to farmers to the broader direction of policy post-Brexit when it comes to the natural world.

Earlier this week, the NFU hosted MPs, peers and advisers from across the political spectrum to highlight why any new farming policy needs to be productive and profitable.

Responses to the consultation will now be analysed and the government will publish a response shortly.