A New Year beckons and it’s time to look forward.

With Brexit still on everyone’s lips the negotiations are bound to feature heavily in the media in 2017. Personally I believe the headline posturing by some of Europe’s negotiators will fade away as it becomes more and more obvious that they need us as much, if not more, than we need them. In 50 years’ time the whole affair will be seen as a minor hiccup in the trading relationship with our near neighbours and far more important events will have taken precedence.

Farming has always been an integral and important part of the countryside, although the present ample availability of food from anywhere in the world has diminished the political priority for British self-sufficiency. With no apparent food shortage the public view is overwhelmingly in favour of conservation over food production. This has resulted in UK farmers now only producing 59% of the food we need compared to 78% 30 years ago. Even when it comes to housing our growing population the quality of land appears to have lost relevance. Most large-scale planning applications don’t even mention it. Does it matter, and will attitudes change in the next 50 years?

It all depends whether you believe that Britain can always rely on getting it’s food from someone else. If so, there’s no problem, but by the law of averages something will go wrong. In 50 years’ time there will be at least 2 billion more mouths to feed worldwide. Will science and GM crops compensate for this extra demand? If climate change severely affects some of the largest food producing nations will they be happy to sell to us, at the risk of their own people starving? The same question will apply if the continuing appetite for appalling acts of terrorism leads to vast productive areas of the world being polluted with poisons or radio active material.

I prefer to think, and certainly hope, common sense will return to policies concerning our countryside. Concern for wildlife has led to some crazy laws based on pure emotion where individual species are so protected that they become overpopulated and start to affect the less protected. Anyone who has heard the screams of a hedgehog being turned inside out and devoured by a hungry badger will know exactly what I mean. It is surely also crazy that some schemes are held up for months at a cost of up to £100,000 per crested newt for a species which can hardly be described as rare. Let’s take a more balanced approach.

However unpalatable or unpopular my words are now, please judge me in 50 years’ time. If conservationists and policy makers have heeded the warning signs Britain can still be a beautiful place. Outside the major urban developments there can still be woods and green valleys, teeming with wildlife. With a little support and access to the wonders of science, UK farmers can recreate that 78% minimum self-sufficiency in food production. If, on the other hand, we plough on steadfastly using emotional perception rather than practical assessments I fear for the British way of life. Happy New Year!