Another successful major show season is drawing to a close for the South West region, and it has been great to see so many members at Devon County, the Royal Bath & West and Royal Cornwall shows over the last couple of months.
Devon County Show kicked off a busy show season, where we were joined by the Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries. In front of a sold-out audience of 220 guests, the Minister commented “Never in my political life has food production been so high on the political agenda, and as a sector it gives us a huge opportunity to shape our future together.”
He was also keen to impress that through the government’s new funding for farmers and landowners to support projects that create new habitats for wildlife, help protected sites and boost efforts to reach net zero, alongside sustainable food production, that “We've made sure there is something for everyone in our new offer.” Mr Spencer was also keen to see more people getting engaged with the sector, and to see farmers being productive and profitable.
During the Devon County Show breakfast, CLA Deputy President Victoria Vyvyan highlighted the plight of upland farmers, saying: “We need to look very carefully at how people can make a real living on upland farms. You cannot deprive people of their livelihoods without compensation and consultation.”
At Royal Bath & West, 130 members heard from the Rt Hon James Heappey, MP for Wells and Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
He urged farmers and landowners in the south west to stand with Ukraine and highlighted the crucial role the rural economy can play in delivering UK security. He told members: “Three of the key pillars of economic security are our energy security, our food security, and our supply chain security. Our rural economy can play a really major role in delivering the economic security.”
The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs took to the stage for the Political Breakfast on the first day of the Royal Cornwall Show. In front of a packed audience of 220 guests, she took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of respecting the countryside, saying “I think it’s critical that we make sure that when people come, they respect the countryside. It is that symbiotic relationship that really is critical to making sure our countryside continues to be beautiful and healthy.”
During her time with the CLA, she touched on a variety of topics. One of these was the issue of Bovine TB in the south west, in response to comments made by Deputy President Victoria Vyvyan, who shared the stage. Calling it an ‘horrific’ scourge, the Suffolk Coastal MP told guests “I want to assure you that I am on your side. I’ve heard what you said about Bovine TB. It’s not unique to this part of the world, and I can tell you that we will keep the culling going as one of the solutions until it is gone. That is critical. There is no fixed deadline, I know some have been set out, but I’m not doing that. We’re carrying on with what works to make sure we tackle this horrific disease.”
Another was the issue of environmental schemes that are replacing the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and ensuring they were more straight forward. Dr Coffey said that she understood that schemes have been complex and paper-heavy, but to show the department was listening, she said: “we’re trying to make them digital and straightforward. One of the mantras I have within the department is that we’re putting things out there but if they’re not working, we want to know so we can make them better. I hope some of what we’ve done already shows you that and we’re not pretending that we have the solution to everything.”
Dr Coffey also announced that farmers will benefit from new equipment and technology to boost sustainable food production and reduce emissions and waste as £31 million has been made available in the latest round of the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF). To conclude, the cabinet minister said that “by empowering farms to invest cash in new kit, we are ensuring our farmers, growers and foresters have the equipment they need to embrace innovation, protect the environment, and contribute to a thriving and sustainable agricultural sector.”
Our summer show season is far from over, and we are delighted to be attending Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show on Wednesday 16 August and Melplash Show on Thursday 24 August, where we will be hosting Breakfast events for our members. We are in the process of confirming speakers for these events so please keep an eye on our Enews, social media channels and website for further details.