Farm subsidies and helping the environment | Letters

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Farm subsidies and helping the environment | Letters

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Ian Stewart insists farmers do not get payments just for owning land, Bob Roberts points out the importance of incentives and public access, while Iain Climie is concerned about food security

The farming subsidy system needs to be totally redesigned and, yes, there are hideous anomalies (Environment to benefit from ‘biggest farming shake-up in 50 years’, 30 November). Racehorses and golf courses are not my idea of farming. But please stop stating that farmers get subsidies just “from owning land”. You do not get payments just for owning land. You get payments for doing things that protect the environment – and for avoiding things that might harm it. Payments are made based on the amount of land used for agriculture, always rather less than the amount “owned”. Not surprisingly, the more agricultural land you are responsible for, the more you have to do – and therefore more (pro rata) is paid out.
Ian Stewart
Brackley, Northamptonshire

• It is unusual for Simon Jenkins to be so unqualified in his support for a government proposal (The UK’s farmers face upheaval, but a reform to subsidies is needed, 30 November). I applaud his enthusiasm, having been closely involved in the development of policies for environmentally friendly farming, including the creation of the countryside stewardship scheme. But there are two further steps that are essential for real change. The first is to incentivise farmers not just to follow rules for their new payments, but to actively strive for efficient environmental improvement – harnessing the drive and creativity that improved productivity in the postwar period. The second is to make public access an integral part of every farm plan – for if the public are to pay for these new goods, they must be allowed to enjoy them.
Bob Roberts
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

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