Farmers in the North West and southern England are being given a direct link to the government with the launch of a new rural hotline service.
The Rural and Farming Networks have been designed to provide a direct link between the DEFRA officials and ministers and farmers and rural businesses to create more opportunities and provide better and more targeted rural policies.
They are intended to bring together people from rural communities, rural businesses and the food and farming industries.
Fourteen of the networks were launched in January, but three more were launched on Tuesday (3 April). These are:
• The Wessex Rural and Farming Network
• Cumbria & North Lancashire Farming, Food & Rural Group
• Cheshire, South and West Lancashire, Merseyside & Manchester Land Use Farming & Rural Group
DEFRA said the networks were “self-sufficient” and included volunteers, such as councillors and businesspeople who have offered to assist with calls.
Each group will be a vital point of contact in the event of local emergencies, such as flooding, as well as giving advice and information so that the right kind of assistance can be provided to keep businesses running.
The new networks sit alongside a £165m package of measures to support rural communities announced in the Rural Economy Growth Review, which aims to maximise the economic potential of rural communities and businesses.
Environment minister Richard Benyon said the networks were helping to give a voice to rural communities, which have previously had their interests neglected by past governments.
“These networks are making us aware of the problems that local businesses face so that we can tackle them and provide the right opportunities for businesses to grow,” he added.