THE LATEST complex changes to English farm subsidies - known as "modulation" - have received a mix reception from farmers and landowners.
Some of it is good - like increased payments for environmental improvements in the countryside - but there is growing concern about dwindling support for food production and other projects designed to encourage schemes which promote economic growth in rural areas.
we should be looking to encourage domestic food production and those businesses that bring it to the consumer
Like all schemes which involve payments from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, "modulation" is extremely complex. It allows member countries to decide which areas of farming and rural issues should be targeted and allows national governments to add extra cash to the schemes it prefers.
Last week, Defra secretary David Miliband announced big increases in support for environmental schemes - but left farmers worried that grants for food production were falling fast and that too little support was to be given to create new economic activity.
In a joint statement, the Northern and North Eastern directors of the CLA, Douglas Chalmers and Angus Collingwood-Cameron, complained: "Rural sustainability is a "three legged stool", and without encouraging the economic activity that earns money and creates jobs, both the social and environmental fabric of rural life are put at risk. The emphasis cannot always be on the environment alone.
"English farmers will be concerned over how quickly modulation is increasing, and worry that this places them at a competitive disadvantage, even within the United Kingdom. With the increasingly uncertain nature of global politics, coupled with an increasing interest in home produced food, we should be looking to encourage domestic food production and those businesses that bring it to the consumer."