By Hannah Binns
The Brexit vote offers a chance for farming to become more diverse and environmentally resilient, countryside campaigners have claimed.
A new report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues farming in England needs to become more diverse to prove environmentally resilient and publicly accessible over the coming years.
The ‘New Model Farming’ paper states its hope to form a strong future, through diverse sectors, which offer rewards beyond food, including clean water, abundant wildlife, better flood management and improved carbon storage.
The paper is the first in a series of ‘Food and Farming Foresight’ reports by CPRE, written to encourage debate about the future of farming.
It has urged the Government to ‘reverse narrow trends of industrialisation and short-term efficiency that have long inflicted damage on vital natural assets’.
It revealed damage to soil was estimated at £1.2 billion a year, while populations of farmland birds in England have more than halved in the past 40 years.
CPRE suggested that in order to arrest this decline in diversity across the sector, the Government should address the bias in policy towards larger farms through the tapering of public funding to benefit smaller farms.
It is currently thought that about 80 per cent of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payment goes to the 20 per cent largest businesses.
CPRE highlighted the fact there were 34,000 fewer farms in the UK than there were a decade ago, and called for more land to be made available to new groups of farmers and communities.
Graeme Willis, food and farming campaigner at CPRE, stated the important role the Government had in determining what farming and the English countryside will look like post-Brexit.
He said: “To forge a more resilient future, the Government should encourage a mix of farms that produce different foods for local people and varied, thriving landscapes.
“The obvious place to start is by redirecting funding to help smaller, more innovative and mixed farms, and by making land available for new farmers to enter the market.”