Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith's challenge to the farmer's case is overdue ("One man's dog of an argument", 1 March). Farmers constantly tell us that we should all be devastated by the consequences if the rug was pulled from under the present rural regime. But why should we be?
Current farming practices have destroyed much of the landscape attraction and wildlife value of the countryside. Meanwhile farmers resist the idea that the taxpayers and consumers who fund them should enjoy the right to walk upon their holdings.
If farm subsidies were withdrawn and inefficient farmers departed the worst that could happen is that some farmland would revert to wilderness. Farmers tell us this would lead to an invasion "scrub" which we should find intolerable. Why?
"Scrub" is part of the indigenous plant life of our country. Grassland, shrubs and bushes and the woodland into which they develop provide homes and breeding grounds for wild creatures. Other countries go to great lengths to ensure that large areas are dedicated solely to nature. The shortage of wilderness in Britain is arguably a serious problem.
In fact, however, not much land abandoned by agriculture would be likely to lie derelict. As land prices fell uses other than farming would become feasible. Nature conservation organisations would be able to buy far more land. Local authorities would be able to create more extensive country parks.
All of this would be likely to make the countryside far more attractive, useful to the citizenry and biologically diverse.
Dorking, SurreyReuse content