Letter: Another country

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Terence Blacker correctly identifies "misunderstanding between urban and rural dwellers" (Comment, 17 March). However he paints a picture of confrontation that will benefit neither town nor country.

He condemns farmers for greed and environmental destruction. Yes, much harm has been done to our countryside by modern farming methods. Yet this was driven not by farmers but by national and European government, with half a century of subsidies and exhortation aimed at greater food production. That we still have one of the most conservation-rich countrysides in Europe says much for the many farmers who have resisted the destructive forces.

The vast majority of farmers are in the industry because they love the countryside. If they really were the "hard-eyed businessmen" to whom Terence Blacker refers, they would long ago have sold up and put their money in a building society. Farm incomes fell by 56 per cent last year yet farmers are struggling to remain in the vocation they love.

Mr Blacker asks whether the countryside should be treated as the farmer's factory floor or a leisure resource. It can perform both roles, but only if those who visit rural areas are sympathetic to the livelihoods and needs of those who live and work there.

RICHARD BURGE

Chief Executive

The Countryside Alliance

London, SE11

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