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Smaller farms heading towards a cliff edge

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 10:52

Campaigners call for farming funding that will stem loss of smaller farms and the diversity they provide

 

A new report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) illustrates that England is rapidly losing its network of smaller farms, and the diversity in food and landscape they provide.

CPRE’s Uncertain Harvest uses official statistics from the UK and Europe to demonstrate that smaller farms in England are in steep decline. Overall, a fifth of English farms have disappeared in the past 10 years, but the rate is fastest amongst the smallest farms. Almost a third of farms under 50 hectares disappeared between 2005 and 2015.

Should these trends continue, CPRE suggests that farms under 50 hectares could all but disappear from the English countryside by the middle of the century.

CPRE believes that a mix of farm sizes and enterprises is crucial to maintaining England’s world-renowned landscapes and diversity of food. As part of this mix, smaller farms are vital to the countryside as they sustain rural communities through jobs and protect distinctive local character. In their diversity of approaches, they create greater diversity in food production and conservation, both of which shape rural heritage and rural economies.

Competition and market pressures have put great strain on smaller farms, with supermarkets controlling 90% of the retail market and forcing down prices. During this time, smaller farms have also faced an inequitable funding model through the Common Agricultural Policy. 

Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the Government has pledged to pursue a new funding settlement that rewards farmers for public goods and environmental benefits rather than the size of land holdings. The future structure of public funding will likely determine the future of many smaller and struggling farms.

 

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