Alice Thomson continues: after Brexit there is a chance to redefine our relationship with the countryside. The system is skewed to the largest farms. Khalid Abdullah al-Saud received £400,000 last year in subsidies for his vast Juddmonte Farms, which breed racehorses. Such wealthy landowners are already benefiting from the inheritance tax exemption on farming land, and most don’t need the nearly £3 billion in direct subsidies from Brussels – mere pocket money.
Andrea Leadsom, the new environment secretary, said before the referendum that “it would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep and those with the hill farms do the butterflies”. But Britain should be going the other way, tapering payments so they promote small, innovative, often part-time farms to keep the countryside alive.
With the weak pound, supermarkets should be trying harder to champion local producers
In return farmers should be expected to become true custodians of the countryside – as many already are – planting more trees and hedgerows, helping with flood management, promoting good animal husbandry and richer soils.
Government’s penchant for relying on imported food involves increasing traffic flows, more congestion, more pollution, more road accidents, more calls for more motorway widening and more HGVs doing local deliveries clogging up roads.
Relying on imported food also reduces self-provisioning and self-reliance as impacts of climate change and overpopulation outstrip our ability to feed ourselves.