By Farmers Weekly staff

FARMERS are vital creators of wealth in rural areas and should be supported through development programmes to maintain a vibrant rural economy, says Bob Forster, NFU West Midlands regional director.

“For every one job in agriculture, there are five other jobs reliant on that person staying in business.

“On average, every farmer deals with 70 other businesses and 96% of those are based within a 15-mile radius,” he says.

Over £1 billion is generated in the rural areas of the West Midlands, which make up 80% of the region, and most of it is ploughed back through local goods and services, he maintains. If farmers go out of business, the knock-on effect can be devastating.

Long-term subsidies have “consistently failed” to safeguard the family farm. Over one-third of farmers in the area qualify for income support, though few claim it, says Mr Forster.

He believes development of skills and of physical assets like buildings and land is the best way to create value, thereby increasing income and jobs.