A long and valuable day spent with a range of farmers from across South Devon, hearing from them about the issues that keep them awake at night.
I was pleased to be joined by Stuart Roberts, former Deputy President of the NFU, and later in the day by Guy Singh-Watson of Riverford for a lively discussion about the role of farmers in food production and environmental protection.
Stuart and I are collecting evidence from local farmers to feed into the Liberal Democrats’ Food and Farming Policy development work as the party prepares its policies ahead of the next general election, due by the end of 2024.
A policy paper will be presented to our Autumn conference in September – though as yet I don’t know what it will focus on.
Topics covered yesterday included public access to the countryside, planning issues, tenancy agreements, farming on the Dartmoor Commons, carbon sequestration, the debate around public money for public goods, food supply chains and more...
It was clear that in all these areas a balance needs to be found – between farmers and environmentalists, ramblers, landlords and policy makers.
The farmers we spoke to clearly feel they are not being heard, and the rural economy in general is being ignored by a government that has long taken their votes for granted.
There are highly complex issues at stake here and a climate crisis that demands to be addressed. I’d like to thank all the farmers who took the time to share their knowledge and experience with me and Stuart, thanks to Daynes Farm for hosting us in the morning and to those who came in the evening to hear our discussion on food and farming.
As my campaign to become the next MP for South Devon progresses I will continue to listen to all those who know and love this land, and work to balance the demands of different interest groups, a rural economy and an ecosystem that needs our support.