Sir, While I agree completely with Kim Wilkie regarding the importance and care of farming soils and landscapes, his suggestion that Brexit could herald an opportunity for a more caring approach to food production is unfortunately naive (“ Why Brexit could boost farming”, House & Home, March 24).
The constraints on funding through the European Common Agricultural Policy have, in the past, not been so tight as to have prevented funding for a better system of farming support that Mr Wilkie advocates. But pressure from the National Farmers’ Union, and in our case NFU Scotland, who respond mostly to the larger and frequently industrial farmers, has meant that money follows those who are able to shout loudest.
Large supermarket chains rely on the abundance of cheap food and so tend to support the maintenance of the status quo. Hilary Benn and John Gummer might have had a good understanding of agriculture and rural affairs but they were able to do little to change direction in the face of large agricultural and retail interests.
These pressures will not change under Brexit. More good agricultural land will be built on to provide houses for the growing population. More low cost food will need to be produced to improve the balance of payments and compete with cheap imports. Funding may be available to support the appearance of rural landscapes and through that a visual appeal to the vital tourist market; however, competition for taxpayers’ money will, I suspect, mean that environment secretary Michael Gove — or in Scotland, Fergus Ewing — will not have the freedom to make any of the significant changes that Mr Wilkie would like to see. His beautiful beef and downland will remain niche rather than mainstream. The grass may look greener, but …
Waternish, Isle of Skye, UK
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