Britain’s countryside may be the “unacknowledged backbone” of its national identity, but Prince Charles has said he fears for its future.
The landscape is “as precious as any of our great cathedrals and we erode it at our peril”, the prince writes in a special edition of Country Life magazine.
In his editorial, the prince stresses the need for a “truly sustainable” agricultural system, but says that farming is also mutually dependent on a vibrant rural community.
‘”It is the bedrock of our rural communities, making post offices, pubs, public transport and local healthcare absolutely vital to the production of our food and the protection of the landscapes we all benefit from in so many ways”, he writes.
“This is why the countryside’s contribution to the national good has to be cherished and sustained. Without it, we will all be very much poorer.”
The prince expresses concern that the average age of a British farmer is 58 while a recent survey by the Royal Agricultural Society of England claims that the country will need 60,000 new farmers in the next decade.
He also criticises the treatment of farmers by supermarkets. “It cannot be right that a typical hill farmer earns just £12,600, with some surviving on as little as £8,000 a year, while the big retailers and their shareholders do so much better out of the deal, having taken none of the risk”, he says.
“This has far-reaching consequences.”
Mark Hedges, Country Life’s editor, said that the Prince worked “incredibly hard” in his own stint as editor.
“The prince has become the countryside’s strongest voice. His support for it is something that, as a nation, we should treasure. What the next king thinks matters”, Hedges added.
This is the latest in a series of calls from the Prince for sustainability in different industries. In October, he criticised the pensions industry for focussing on “quarterly capitalism” and for failing to tackle long-term challenges such as climate change.
Meanwhile, in an interview with ITV1’s This Morning programme in January, he said “I’ve gone on for years about the importance of thinking about the long-term in relation to the environmental damage, climate change and everything else.
“We don’t, in a sensible world, want to hand on an increasingly dysfunctional world to our grandchildren, to leave them with the real problem.
“I don’t want to be confronted by my future grandchild and them say, ‘Why didn’t you do something?’, so clearly now that we will have a grandchild, it makes it even more obvious to try and make sure we leave them something that isn’t a total poisoned chalice.”