THE FACT that the Westminster government has received 44,000-plus responses to its consultation on how food, farming and the environment should be supported once the UK leaves the EU, is both gratifying and terrifying.

On the positive side, it is great to see the intensity with which many people care about the land that is worked and cared for on the nation's behalf. The industry's leaders have also done well to drum up grass roots' farming support to lobby the system on this landscape-changing topic.

But the 'terrifying' bit comes in when you see what is stacked up against the wishes and wants of the business of agriculture, by the desires of a whole raft of people who have an opinion on what the 'environment' should look like, but who have never actually had to earn a living off it ... unless a single issue charitable body or trust is paying their wages.

That is where the dilemma lies in how government weighs up the evidence. The scales have on one side the considered and weighted arguments of a working industry, while the other side of the balance weighs in with a challenging diaspora of one-dimensional combatants, those with a clear anti-farming agenda and, quite simply, bampots!

The powers that be state it is a ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation but just how much 'harmony' will there be in such a wide church of respondents? Not much we would guess.

So, this is a difficult balancing act for politicians and civil servants as they put the various viewpoints through the proverbial riddle. The potential for those with a vested interest to void any sway that the business/farming argument might have and act as a shedding gate benefitting more fundamentalist ideas, is great.

This is an area where strong leadership and direction will be vital to reach any kind of harmony of thought. Politicians and their array of civil service should be left in no doubt that while farming has bought into many facets of 'greening' thus far, the more extreme elements of the environmental lobby have not shown the same acceptance that the countryside is a place of work and business.

However, the two are not entirely incompatible, but the propensity for disastrous policies which benefit no one, but breed disharmony and distrust is a real danger.

There is a lot to play for. We have within our gift a chance to re-model a farming support system which can be bespoke to the many unique aspects of British agriculture – and also deliver for the environment. Thus far, the clear-headed thinking necessary to achieve that goal has been posted missing – farming, the environment and the people of the United Kingdom deserve better.