Letter: Down on the farm

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Sean Rickard assumes that all society requires from farming is cheap food. He fails to mention that millions of people are deeply concerned about the less tangible products of farming - the quality, diversity and beauty of the countryside. Much of the criticism of the CAP for many years has been the damage it has caused to wildlife and landscape. In a survey conducted in 1996 by the Countryside Commission, 91 per cent thought society had a "moral duty" to protect the countryside.

CPRE is in no way an apologist for the CAP and we believe radical reform is long overdue. The objectives of reform, however, should not be focused on a very narrow definition of competitiveness. A new rural policy for Europe should give greater encouragement to farmers to add value to the farmed environment and help them to market the quality of that local environment in the products they produce. This approach applies as much to small farmers as to larger ones.

The countryside remains a local product that can only be produced by our own farmers. CPRE wants to see those who produce the beauty and diversity of our countryside rewarded by using far more of the current CAP budget to support more sustainable farming. In the long term the quality of the environment will be one of farming's most enduring assets.

ALASTAIR RUTHERFORD

Head of Rural Policy

Council for the Protection of Rural England

London SW1

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