The 2023 review: a year of CLA and member achievements

In an eventful year for the CLA, its membership and the rural economy, we wrap up our top 12 highlights of 2023 – one for each month of the year

1) The next generation

Ahead of our inaugural Next Generation Conference in the spring, we spoke to members who had either recently taken over the family business or shortly planned to do so.

The well-attended event took place at Bradford Estates in Shropshire and featured a host of future land managers and guest speakers - including co-founder of Wildfarmed and one half of electronic duo Groove Armada, Andy Cato.

The conference and dinner was such a hit that plans for a similar event in 2024 are already underway.

The future of land ownership

CLA members Alexander, Viscount Newport, and Joe Evans talk about their experiences of taking on the family mantle

2) Investigating the extent of the 'rural premium'

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse released a detailed report exploring the cost-of-living crisis in rural areas.

Researched and funded by the CLA, the 'Rural Premium' report included evidence from more than 25 industry bodies, highlighting the extent of the government's failings when it comes to employment, housing, energy and enterprise within rural communities.

Among other figures, it revealed that rural communities spend 10-20% more on everyday items like fuel, despite wages being 7.5% lower than their urban counterparts.

Government failures have created cost-of-living 'rural premium'

Read MP's and the CLA's reaction to the findings

3) CLA wins on access

The CLA continued to work tirelessly on members' behalf, raising concerns about the 'right to roam' campaign while also highlighting the vast network of footpaths, bridleways and byways which already make up our public rights of way network.

This year, in a major lobbying win for the CLA, Labour announced it was backing away from a widespread 'right to roam' policy. The party said that it will not pursue a Scottish-style 'right to roam' in the English countryside if elected, instead promoting a responsible access approach.

Labour backs away from widespread 'right to roam' policy

Find out how the CLA continues to work closely with the party to define and support responsible access to the countryside

4) County shows

With the summer months comes county show season. Each year this causes the CLA’s regional teams to spring into action to meet with members face-to-face at agricultural shows and rural events – and 2023 was no different.

From the Suffolk Show in May until the Usk Show in September, each of our regions hosted a number of exclusive events where CLA members could reconnect and discuss concepts and ideas. We even had a royal visitor as our stand at Groundswell in June.

The events this year were as enjoyable for CLA staff as they were for members and we were delighted to share some of our experiences online.

Which was your favourite show this year?

5) Rural Powerhouse campaign

The CLA's Rural Powerhouse campaign continued to kick on in 2023, encouraging governing bodies in England and Wales to unlock the potential of the rural economy.

Among the wins included extracts from the UK Government's report ‘Unleashing Rural Opportunity’. This set out plans to boost rural communities by improving planning, housing, digital connectivity, transport, jobs and tackling rural crime.

CLA lobbying secures wide ranging package of measures to boost rural economy

UK Government publishes report following recommendations from the CLA

6) The CLA Charitable Trust

In another bumper year for the CLA Charitable Trust (CLACT), in 2023 it supported more than 100,000 people and offered almost £250,000 in grant funding to worthwhile rural charities and causes.

The Trust is almost entirely made up of CLA members' contributions and is dedicated to helping those who are disabled or disadvantaged to visit and participate in learning experiences in rural areas.

With funds to support outdoor education and scholarships to help shape future farming talent, the CLACT has continued to help connect people with our countryside.

CLA Charitable Trust

Find out how members contributions to the CLACT are being put to good use

7) Safety in farming

This year saw another year of worrying statistics for the farming industry. The rate of fatal injuries in the agricultural sector remains one of the highest of all major industries, with 27 people killed as a result of farming and other related activities in 2022-23.

As an organisation the CLA continued to promote safe working practices in 2023. This included our Deputy President Gavin Lane (who is also Chair of the Farm Safety Partnership), who sat down with CLA Director of External Affairs Jonathan Roberts for Farm Safety Week in July to consider how the government and farming industry can improve safety measures for all. Watch part of their discussion here.

The importance of farm safety: Changing attitudes can save lives

For harvest season, the CLA encouraged the industry to put safety first

8) Member stories

The work of the CLA would not be possible without our members. Members' views direct our lobbying efforts, and their stories empower us to fight for the rights of the countryside.

This year we have been in awe of several member stories and were astonished at the diversity of innovative enterprises that have been successful throughout England and Wales.

In 2023, we spoke to the CLA member responsible for creating board game Jenga, the family farm who use technology to provide Wimbledon with 1.5m strawberries a year, and members who have played their part in creating sets for blockbuster films like Barbie and Star Wars.

9) Farming updates

The seemingly everchanging nature of the agricultural transition in England has left many farmers and land owners scratching their heads as they attempt to keep up to date on the latest Defra schemes.

Throughout 2023, the CLA worked closely with the UK Government, striving to simplify the process for land managers and ensure that they are sufficiently supported for the essential service they provide.

Our lobbying efforts, on behalf of CLA members, have helped guide the conversation in the right direction for Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs), including the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS).

Government announces details of Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023

Following CLA lobbying, the government provides further information in an effort to improve the SFI offer for farmers and landowners in England

10) Welcoming a new CLA President

In November, we said a fond farewell to Mark Tufnell as CLA President and welcomed Victoria Vyvyan into her new role at the CLA.

Victoria, who becomes the 56th president in the Association’s 116-year history, has vowed to champion the next generation, celebrate the regions and take the Rural Powerhouse campaign to the next level during her two-year tenure.

Gavin Lane was also appointed CLA Deputy President, while Joe Evans has become Vice President.

11) The CLA Rural Business Conference

Our Rural Business Conference's offer land managers an opportunity to find out more about issues that impact their rural businesses.

2023's conference was an event of first's. It was the first opportunity for new CLA President Victoria Vyvyan to meet and discuss ideas with members, and also gave a platform for new Defra Secretary of State, Steve Barclay MP, and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Steve Reed MP to give their first public speeches.

From responsible access and land use to nature-friendly farming and the next generation, a variety of fascinating subjects were debated at the event at the QEII Centre in London. Read what came out of this year's conference here.

The 2023 CLA Rural Business Conference photo gallery

Take a look at the images from another memorable CLA Rural Business Conference

12) Hitting the road

There's nothing quite like meeting with members face-to-face, and in 2023, our teams were able to reach out to hundreds CLA members at roadshow events.

Our Agricultural Transition Roadshow set off in March and travelled to each of our regions in England to explain and discuss the shift to Environmental Land Management schemes.

More recently, over the winter months, our experts were back on the road. This time helping members understand opportunities available to them in our Natural Capital Roadshow. Many have already benefitted from expert advice, and in 2024 we look forward to visiting more land managers in the Midlands, North and Wales to share knowledge and case studies in-person.

CLA Natural Capital Roadshow: the prospects of nature markets

Join our CLA experts at an event near you in 2024