The rural agenda: Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats presents its ideas for the rural economy as part of a series of articles the CLA is running ahead of the general election on 4 July
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The CLA has offered all major political parties the opportunity to present their ideas for rural communities ahead of the general election. We offer this in a non-partisan manner. This article is part of a series of pieces that we are publishing in the run up to 4 July.

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson:

We ask an awful lot of our brilliant rural community in Britain. We expect them to be stewards of our beautiful countryside, to be on the frontline of the fight against climate change and decreasing biodiversity, while at the same time producing food for our plates at prices we can afford. It’s about time we offered people living in rural areas something in return.

From the botched farm payment transition to labour shortages to the trade deals that put British agriculture last – our farmers feel badly let down. Under the Conservatives, our natural environment and waterways have been decimated.

I often say that two of the top issues my constituents mention on the doorstep are that the weather has been downright awful and that the Conservatives have neglected our area. Unfortunately, we cannot do anything about the weather. However, the Liberal Democrats are the only party at this election with a truly ambitious plan to give our rural economy the help it needs and deserves.

At the heart of our offer is an extra £1bn a year boost for British farmers. This investment in British food production will provide farmers with the technology they need to increase yields and future-proof our food sources. Together with using public procurement to support the consumption of domestically farmed food, our plans will ensure that British farmers can produce food profitably and sustainably, while also bringing down prices in the long-term.

The Liberal Democrats will also deal with the broken Conservative promises to protect farmers in trade deals. The Conservatives have increased costs and red tape for farmers exporting to our nearest neighbours in Europe. At the same time, the agreements they have signed with Australia and New Zealand have undermined our world-leading farming standards, allowing overseas producers to undercut our farmers on animal welfare and environmental standards. The Liberal Democrats will renegotiate the deals with Australia and New Zealand to get a fair deal for British farmers and, this time, introduce rigorous democratic scrutiny of trade deals in Parliament, before, during and after they are negotiated and agreed upon.

We also have a bold plan to restore our natural environment, committing to Biodiversity Net Gain by 2050, creating three new National Nature Parks across England and taking tough action on water companies to end the sewage scandal once and for all.

Together, our plans will help ensure that our farmers can maintain the best environmental and welfare standards while producing great food and getting a fair price. In rural areas, from the West Country to Westmorland, we are the main challengers to the Conservatives and every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a local champion who will fight for communities and give the rural economy the fair deal it deserves.

The Conservatives have long claimed to be the party of rural England and Wales but its risible record has not matched their lofty rhetoric. The party has taken the votes of these communities for granted for far too long and the results have been disastrous.

Enough is enough. This general election is an opportunity to show the Conservatives the door. I’m not going to make promises I cannot keep about the weather improving but I am sure that getting rid of this Conservative government will lead to a brighter future for our farmers, our rural communities and our country.

Rural Powerhouse

The CLA's six missions for the next government to empower the rural economy