The Countryside Alliance has called for productive and competitive farming to be at the heart of our 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.

The Countryside Alliance has called on the Government to prioritise improved productivity and competitiveness in any new policy and target support towards preserving rural resilience, and traditional farming and landscapes in the uplands, as well as supporting high animal health standards. The 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 as the Government looks to move support payments away from direct subsidies and towards payments for providing public goods.

The Alliance has also used the opportunity of the consultation to highlight other challenges facing farming and rural communities, including a lack of digital connectivity and skills amongst people in rural areas, a lack of affordable housing, and labour shortages in some sectors of the industry.

Sarah Lee, Countryside Alliance Head of Policy commented: “Farming is central to the economic and social life of some of our most rural communities so 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.

“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. 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.”

The Countryside Alliance submission to the consultation can be found here.