When all the farms have gone

David Cox's analysis of the plight of the British countryside ("Get on your bike, Farmer Giles", 12 March) is spot on in its review of the economic forces that have pushed farmers to the brink, but I think he's a little too optimistic in his view of what the countryside will look like once farming and farmers are finally made redundant.

Land in a crowded country is a scarce resource, which will not be allowed to lie fallow for long. All the good intentions of wildlife organisations, pet goat breeders and (yes) amenity foresters will ultimately be unable to stem the most pressing and economically rewarding use for underutilised farmland: development, primarily for houses.

Not Britain paved over, but Britain Surreyfied. Or, if you wish to see Britain's future writ large, look, as usual, to the United States, and the vast chain of suburbs that stretches from greater Boston down to Washington DC and beyond.

Barbara Matthews
Wombleton, North Yorkshire

David Cox has failed to grasp the nub of the issue. It is the very fact that our supermarkets do buy the cheapest from around the world that has led to the importation of both swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease back into this country - prior to which we could lay claim to a truly disease-free status on both these counts.

Incidentally, many farmers gave food directly from their farms to miners during the miners' strike.

Denise Walton
Co-ordinator, The Borders Foundation for Rural Sustainability
Foulden, Berwickshire

This article first appeared in the 26 March 2001 issue of the New Statesman, How the rich rule politics again