‘The agricultural sector is going through great change, but can thrive with the right support’ – that was the message from CLA members who took Meon Valley MP Flick Drummond on a farm tour this week.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) invited Mrs Drummond to meet with several members who farm in her constituency to discuss a wide range of issues affecting rural life and business.
The meeting was hosted by Jamie Balfour, of Wintershill Estates which comprises of arable and beef farms in Twyford and Durley. Mr Balfour then led a farm walk to highlight some of the topics covered, from public access to forestry.
Also in attendance were Charlie and Becca Corbett of Holden Farm near Cheriton; Katherine Wake from The Holt near Upham; Mr Balfour’s estate manager Chris Cook and his wife Alison; and representatives from the CLA.
They discussed the importance of visitors to rural areas enjoying the countryside responsibly. The CLA has been calling for the teaching of the Countryside Code to be added to the school curriculum following a surge in visitors during the pandemic, and has also created some resource packs with LEAF Education for teachers to use.
Rural crime, broadband and farm support
Other topics covered included rural crime, such as fly-tipping, and the impact unreliable broadband has on rural businesses, while the farmers stressed their commitment to the environment by updating Mrs Drummond on some of their projects promoting biodiversity and how important cluster groups are for farms to work together to deliver greater environmental improvements.
As UK farming transitions away from the Common Agricultural Policy and payments from the EU, the Government is introducing Environmental Land Management, which will pay farmers for delivering environmental benefits, though some of the details remain unclear. Mr Balfour told the group that farms need to be “in the black” and should have a level playing field in terms of welfare and environmental standards when competing with imports. But the mood was positive, acknowledging it is a time of great change and opportunity for the agricultural industry, if appropriately supported.
It is always good to meet up with farmers in Meon Valley, who do so much to look after our natural environment, and to discuss the issues they face. Our rural businesses of all kinds are vital for our economy too, and I will keep up my work around the constituency and at Westminster to ensure that their needs are understood by central government.
Michael Valenzia, Regional Director of CLA South East which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses across Hampshire and beyond, said: “We are very grateful for Flick’s time and for her enthusiasm towards the rural community, and we look forward to building a close relationship as farming is such an important sector in the Meon Valley constituency.
“This is a crucial time for agriculture. The CLA recognises the need for evolution in the sector, but farmers must be heard. Getting the transition away from EU payments right is crucial, so that we can have an industry that can thrive and continue to help care for the environment for future generations.”
The CLA also met with Caroline Nokes MP recently - click here for a summary report.
Thank you to members for hosting the visits. More MP meetings are being organised; if you are interested in hosting your local member please email email@example.com