Brexit provides opportunity for significant change in countryside

Date: Tuesday 5th September 2017

Sir, May I expand on the article “Call for proactive approach to winning new livestock markets” (Herald, 19th August) and offer comment on the points made by Chris Dodds.

When we leave the European Union it will give farmers, foresters and land managers a significant opportunity for change in the wider management of the countryside.

In 2019 we will be leaving the Common Agricultural Policy which has supported and shaped the food and farming and rural sector across the UK for more than 40 years.

This presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to phase out a bureaucratic and outdated system, and to replace it with a new policy that is more transparent and better targeted, and one which fairly rewards the contribution of those who manage the land in a way that benefits society as a whole.

Having the freedom to develop a new policy to replace CAP in the future is a major opportunity to improve on profitability, recognise the multifunctional nature of land management and support the wider rural economy in a new and innovative way.

Land managers are uniquely placed to deliver food security, clean water, carbon storage, biodiversity and other social benefits, but they come at a cost to farmers in time, money and business efficiency, and, while highly valued, there is a limited market means of paying for them.

Managing land well provides society with a range of benefits. It provides food, including grains for bread and beer, quality seasonal fruit and vegetables and meat reared to some of the highest welfare standards anywhere in the world. However, our land managers provide so much more than the work they do.

Farmers are responsible for maintaining hedgerows which are so vital to our wildlife and they have installed miles of environmental buffer strips. Many people enjoy spending time in the countryside doing a range of activities and appreciate the access, landscape and natural environment that is shaped by the activities of farmers.

The countryside is not static and needs to be able to respond to future demands. Managing rural land can play a major role in meeting international obligations for climate change, improving water quality, protecting soils and providing opportunities for people to enjoy clean air, providing more effective flood management solutions and enhancing wildlife habits.

Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, is aware of all these opportunities. It is to be hoped that he and his advisers will be able to provide us with a bespoke UK agricultural policy. Yours etc,

JOHN HARRIS

Brackenburgh Estate,

Penrith.