Senior figures at Defra, the NFU and the CLA have become the latest to sign a pledge opposing prejudice and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) people living and working in rural areas.
The signing ceremony was organised by Agrespect, which aims to encourage inclusivity in agriculture and show that the industry “can offer fulfilling careers for everybody, regardless of their sexuality”.
Set up by farmers, it wants to show that, while homophobic opinions can still exist in rural communities, they don’t define all views in the farming sector.
More than 20 companies have so far signed the Agrespect pledge (see box), including Barclays, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and agricultural machinery manufacturers Fendt and Massey Ferguson.
The full Agrespect pledge
“We stand against prejudice and support rural LGBTQ+ diversity, inclusion and enablement.”
This week, Defra secretary Michael Gove, NFU president Minette Batters, Defra permanent secretary Clare Moriarty and CLA director general Helen Woolley added their organisations to the pledge.
“Farming today is an innovative and progressive industry that benefits greatly from being open to all, regardless of their background, gender, religion and sexuality,” said Mr Gove.
“I hope that, through the signing of this pledge, we can further demonstrate our ongoing support for LGBTQ+ people in our rural communities.”
Lincolnshire flower grower and Farmers Weekly columnist Matthew Naylor is one of the farmers behind Agrespect.
“Agriculture and the rural economy are going through a period of massive change and the countryside needs to retain and attract the very brightest and best people. We need to welcome everyone,” he said.
“Obviously there is still a way to go before all rural industries, businesses and communities can call themselves truly diverse and actively inclusive, but we are thrilled with the support and commitment we are being given by our partner organisations.”
Agrespect is currently working with agricultural colleges and universities to attract LGBTQ+ students and is planning activities at Pride events in the UK to promote British food and farming.