New Chairman of CLA Oxfordshire branch: Farmers are at the forefront of driving change as country aims for net zero

Ed Smith, who comes from a farming family near Kidlington, replaces Roddie Feilden at recent committee meeting
Ed Smith Oxon - landscape
Ed Smith is a qualified rural surveyor, and has worked for two national firms before leaving in 2018 to establish his own rural consultancy business.

The new Chairman of the Oxfordshire branch of the CLA, Ed Smith, believes farmers are at the forefront of driving change as the country aims for net zero.

Mr Smith replaced Roddie Feilden at a committee meeting this week, in one of the most important rural roles in the county. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is a membership organisation representing farmers, landowners and rural businesses of all sizes and types.

Mr Smith comes from a farming family near Kidlington in Oxfordshire, and manages the business in a family partnership. The farm comprises approximately 1,125 acres of owned and rented land and is now entirely arable. Over time the farm business has broadened to encompass a small commercial portfolio of offices and light industrial units, medium scale solar, and a ground source district heating system to service the residential and commercial properties.

A qualified rural surveyor, Mr Smith has worked for two national firms before leaving in 2018 to establish his own rural consultancy business, EDSS Rural Ltd, providing strategic management advice to private client landed estates.

He said he is looking forward to taking on the chairmanship of the CLA’s Oxfordshire branch at such an important time for the farming sector, and paid tribute to his predecessor.

Mr Smith said: “We are in a period of change and opportunity within the agricultural industry as I have never experienced before.

“Farmers and land managers are at the forefront of driving change, whether it be through a broader adoption of regenerative agricultural techniques, capitalising on opportunities for carbon sequestration, biodiversity net gain or natural capital projects, and delivering renewable energy projects to help meet net zero targets; and that’s even before we talk about government policy and the delivery of public goods.

“However, the core of what we do must always be about producing food to the highest possible standards.

“In these times of significant change, the role of the CLA becomes ever more pivotal in influencing emerging policy at a national level, and providing the membership with the tools to make informed decisions.

“I would like to say a big thank you to Roddie who has expertly navigated the committee through the past three years with a calm and measured hand, as well as dealing with the unenviable task of chairing meetings on a virtual platform through the pandemic years; a form of communication which has become second nature now and just shows how quickly things evolve.”

Role 'opens one’s eyes'

As Oxfordshire branch Chairman, Mr Smith will be representing hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the county.

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “We wish to place on record our sincere thanks to Roddie Feilden for his tremendous work, ideas and enthusiasm over the course of his chairmanship.

“We are delighted to welcome Ed Smith into the role and look forward to working closely with him over the next few years.”

Outgoing Chairman Mr Feilden said: “I think that while being on a regional committee certainly opens one’s eyes to the volume of issues the CLA deals with, and to the great depth of knowledge within its ranks, it was not until I became chairman of the Oxfordshire committee and attended Council in London that this was really brought home.

“I have much enjoyed my time and enjoyed our quarterly meetings. Putting a number of people together in a room, from different backgrounds, some farmers, some professionals but all linked by their common interest in rural land management and day-to-day involvement in rural landowning issues, is always going to make for interesting discussions. The enthusiasm, ideas and views which help shape policy papers have greatly assisted me in my task of chairing these gatherings.

“Above all I would like to say that the Chairman’s role is made incredibly easy by the CLA regional director and the regional office staff.”