Monday, 9 January 2012

Farmers to be custodians of future landscapes

A new survey finds well over four out of five British adults (84 per cent) believe that farmers have a responsibility to look after the landscape and wildlife for future generations. [1]
 These findings mirror the aspirations of a new, ambitious vision for the future of farming published today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) [2]. The CPRE farming vision outlines the changes to farming practices and agricultural policy CPRE would like to see by 2026.
The survey has found that fewer than a fifth of British adults (17 per cent) would accept a more industrialised farming sector and an overwhelming 78 per cent of people want farmers to get more support to carry out environmentally sustainable farming practices [3].
These findings provide timely food for thought, given recent calls to increase food production and productivity. Such a move would present challenges for the environmental sustainability of farming. A recent report claimed that the current agricultural practices of European countries, which make intensive use of water, fertiliser and energy, are unlikely to be sustainable in the near future [4]. This demonstrates the need for a fresh debate on how we manage farmland now and in the future.
Ian Woodhurst, Senior Farming Campaigner for CPRE, says: “It’s great to see that people clearly want the environmentally sustainable future for farming set out in our vision. There are huge challenges, including growing populations, increasing demand for land and natural resources, and pressures due to climate change. But we must find ways to cope with these challenges if we are to secure a living, thriving rural landscape.

“We need to be ambitious if we are to ensure we have both a vibrant farming sector and a beautiful countryside alive with wildlife. The Government, farmers, the food industry and environmental organisations will need to work together over the coming years to ensure that the public’s aspirations are realised.”

In its farming vision, CPRE looks to a future when:

? Farmers who adopt new environmental sustainability standards benefit from a price premium that recognises the additional environmental measures they are taking, for example creating wildlife habitats.
? Fairer milk prices for dairy farmers help to reverse the decline in traditional, pasture-based dairy farms, and make them more profitable helping to maintain much loved landscapes
? There is a massive increase in the number of community-based horticultural enterprises supplying local vegetables, salad and fruit, strengthening local food webs.
? Polytunnels for growing fruit and vegetables have become much less contentious after being brought into a planning system which controls their cumulative impacts on the landscape.
? Most pigs and poultry are free range and reared outdoors, which is what the majority of consumers demand.
? Farmers in upland areas have capitalised on the environmental and cultural services these areas provide by, for example, managing water and soils sustainably and creating beautiful landscapes.
? Nearly all farms in England are producing renewable energy through sensitively designed and located small-scale schemes, such as anaerobic digestion plants which generate energy from farm waste.

Ian Woodhurst concluded “CPRE’s farming vision will guide our work and, we hope, provide inspiration to all those who want to see a future where a profitable farming sector and a beautiful, rich and diverse countryside go hand in hand.”

Notes to Editors

[1] This survey was commissioned by CPRE and carried out by ICM research between 13th and 16th December 2011. ICM interviewed a representative total sample of 2,005 adults in Great Britain aged 18+. Interviews were conducted through the ICM online omnibus. Results are weighted to the population profile of Great Britain. ICM is one of the largest and best known research companies in the UK and a leading research company. For more information please visit:
[2] CPRE, Vision for the future of farming, 09 January 2012. The vision accompanies CPRE’s 2026 vision for the countryside and aims to take a more focused look at farming and the critical role it plays in managing the rural landscape:
[3] see [1]
[4] Scottish Agricultural College for Oxford Farming Conference, Power in Agriculture, 04 January 2012,