As I write this some much needed rain is finally starting to fall. As you will see in this issue of the e-news we at the CLA are working on our new Water Strategy, outlining our main priorities and lobbying points. We are also convening a flood panel, made up of members who have been affected by flooding. Please do get in touch if you would like to be involved.
Whilst it is hard for any rural business to consider there to be too many positives to have arisen during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has presented those who work in the food and farming sector a chance to increase the understanding amongst the general public of their vital work.
While the big supermarket chains struggled for many weeks to supply eggs, flour and yeast for example, it was the local independent farm shops, with short supply chains and high quality, locally sourced produce, which have filled a much-needed gap. They have kept local communities stocked with the vital supplies they have needed.
Some customers will have been shopping with these local businesses for the first time and the quality of service and food they will have received will have left a lasting impression.
We have also seen farm shops setting up stalls outside NHS hospitals to make life easier for key workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help others. Those at most of risk from Covid-19 have been receiving doorstep deliveries of meat boxes and fresh fruit and vegetables from their local farm shop and food stores. In a time of adversity, it has been the local food and farming sector that has risen to the challenge and been the lifeblood of many rural communities.
It is going to be a long road back for so many rural businesses, particularly for those who have diversified into the tourism industry, which is still very much on hold. However, it does no harm to reflect for a moment on some of the positives that may come as a result of a global pandemic has had such a profound impact on us all.
As many businesses look to re-open, it is a fine balance between managing the expectation and fears of local residents with the demands of the rural economy. We clearly need to ensure that health and safety of residents and staff is a priority but with the right measures, many businesses can look to re-open in a safe way. We continue to update our website with the very latest advice and guidance. Click here for more information.
We are in the process of developing a series of draft guidelines for rural tourism operators, with the aim of setting out issues that need to be considered when preparing to re-open, including risk assessments. These will be available on the website in the coming weeks.
In our ‘restarting the rural economy paper’ we have proposed a raft of measures which should help rural areas to recover, including a reduction of VAT to 5% - making tourism more competitive with European counterparts. Read the policy paper in full here.
We have also been pushing for more awareness and respect of the countryside, following issues from people straying of public footpaths, leaving gates open and lighting fires during a very dry period.
On other issues, our usual lobbying carries on unabated. The Agriculture Bill has passed to the House of Lords and we have been providing Zoom briefing session to Peers ahead of the second reading this week.