You are absolutely right to sound off a further warning shot about the prospects for upland farms and farms on marginal ground in the UK should they have neither subsidy or a ready export market in Europe (The landscape would be the first casualty, 21 February).
This warning has come before, many times, and will no doubt be aired again. It was the topic of an excellent debate at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference, and yes, we must regrettably look further than the economics, and the potential loss of thousands of farm businesses, some of which are already operating on the edge, and the severe social impacts this would bring. We would lose landscape, culture, scenery, wildlife, tradition, and much more. Without doubt all of these are under threat.
Your article forecasts that some farms would be abandoned, some would contract and become more intensive, and support for aspects that many take for granted but which really do matter would disappear.
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Scotland has set up a hill-edge demonstration farm to dig deeper into how farms such as these can be profitable but at the same time deliver on a number of other fronts, birds and wildlife, landscape, wider natural heritage and so on. What we do know is that subsidy is an essential part of that very delicate balance, and what happens after 2020 when we do not know what will be in the pot, or whether there will be a pot at all, may demand a very different approach.
One thing remains for certain and that is that uncertainty is of no help to anyone trying to keep these traditions - and landscapes - alive.
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust