The sun sets over a field filled with hay bales© Stuart Black/robertharding/REX/Shutterstock

Policies to protect farm incomes and increase profitability must be at the centre of the next government’s blueprint for British food and farming, say industry leaders.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the NFU delivered the joint message on Tuesday (30 May) when prime minister Theresa May visited the opening day of the Royal Bath and West Show at Shepton Mallet, in Somerset.

Speaking to an audience of 200 people at a CLA breakfast, both CLA president Ross Murray and NFU deputy president Minette Batters said it was critical the industry spoke with one voice on the future of UK agriculture.

See also: CLA launches Countryside Matters campaign

And they added the key to a well-managed and cared for environment was profitability in farming.

Profitable history

CLA president Ross Murray said: “Our countryside, the landscapes, habitats and rural environment have been built on a history of profitable agriculture.

“Our farmers look after the countryside and the environment because that is the professional way to farm – but to do that, they need to be making a profit from what they produce – and that is something we have not seen in the past 50 years.

“That is why there has to be a powerful justification for the government stepping in where the market fails.”

Funding

The Conservative Party is the only political party to have committed to funding farming to at least the same level during the next parliament.

Both leaders welcomed the government’s commitment to continue public support for the industry beyond Brexit and to the end of 2022.

But they said it remained vital to create a new conversation between the industry, government and the public to develop a step change in appreciating what the countryside delivers.

The CLA continued to promote its recently launched campaign, The Countryside Matters, at the show explaining to visitors and election candidates about the importance of investing in the countryside post Brexit.

The organisation called on farmers to support the campaign by signing up at www.thecountrysidematters.org arguing it would help ensure everyone can continue to enjoy the countryside, see its economy thrive and its communities prosper. 

The CLA also invited farmers to follow the organisation on Twitter and tweet why the countryside matters to them using the hashtag #thecountrysidematters.

Why does the countryside matter to you?

At recent agricultural shows at Devon, Bath and Suffolk, delegates were asked to fill in CLA pledge cards explaining why the countryside matters to them.

Here is what they said: 

Alex Carson-Taylor holds a printed sign which reads: "The countryside matters to me because..." On the sign Mr Carson-Taylor has written: "It's my livelihood."

Shropshire farmer Alex Carson-Taylor

Kevin Holinrake holds a printed sign. It reads: "I will stand up for the countryside by..." Underneath Mr Hollinrake has written: "Deliver universal 4G mobile coverage and superfast broadband."

Kevin Hollinrake – Conservative candidate for Thirsk and Malton, North Yorkshire

Sue Hayman holds a printed sign. It reads: "I will stand up for the countryside by..." Underneath Mrs Hayman has written: "Secure a trade deal that gives access to markets without compromising our high safety and welfare standards."

Sue Hayman – Labour candidate for Workington, Cumbria