Make the coun­try­side mat­ter

The coun­try­side is at a po­lit­i­cal cross­roads. CLA Pres­i­dent Ross Mur­ray ex­plains why now is the time for ev­ery­one, wher­ever they live, to come to­gether to shape its fu­ture

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Make the elec­tion count, urges CLA Pres­i­dent Ross Mur­ray

The Bri­tish coun­try­side is the eighth won­der of the world and the envy of many. We are for­tu­nate to be part of it and must not for­get our mu­tual in­ter­est in pre­serv­ing its qual­ity, its nat­u­ral state and many pur­poses, its con­tin­ued vi­a­bil­ity and our abil­ity to share it with those who live in towns and cities. The coun­try­side mat­ters to ev­ery­one, all the time.

For it to suc­ceed, how­ever, there needs to be in­vest­ment and strong lead­er­ship. Brexit brings us to a fork in the road: for the past 43 years, most of the over­sight, reg­u­la­tion and sup­port for the coun­try­side has come not from our own gov­ern­ment, but via the eu. The Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP) has been just that: com­mon to a di­verse range of coun­tries, peo­ples and cli­mates, its bud­gets, rules and en­vi­ron­men­tal laws shaped else­where. The CAP has been the master of many, but in­sen­si­tive at times to na­tional and lo­cal needs.

The Prime Min­is­ter will un­der­stand all of this—she is a ge­og­ra­pher, after all—and, given that she’s called a Gen­eral elec­tion, there is no bet­ter time to ask her and all other can­di­dates what their in­ten­tions for the coun­try­side are [Coun­try Life will an­a­lyse the ru­ral cre­den­tials of all party man­i­festos next week, May 24].

I don’t be­lieve that any can­di­date or party seek­ing elec­tion on June 8 would want to cut off the fund­ing that en­sures our land and land­scapes are man­aged in the best in­ter­ests of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions or en­sures that we have safe, se­cure, high-qual­ity and af­ford­able food.

I am op­ti­mistic that the next gov­ern­ment, of what­ever colour, will con­tinue to in­vest in the coun­try­side, but I’m not com­pla­cent, be­cause there are com­pet­ing de­mands on the pub­lic purse. There­fore, we have to make the pos­i­tive case: we have to show that a pub­lic and pri­vate co-in­vest­ment in our coun­try­side is a shared pri­or­ity. We have to do this, not just dur­ing the elec­tion, but through­out the cru­cial months ahead to help shape the coun­try­side pol­icy that will emerge in var­i­ous forms through­out the UK.

A strong farm­ing in­dus­try is the heart­beat of a suc­cess­ful coun­try­side. Given the right con­di­tions and in­vest­ment—and Gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship—it can thrive. A new gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers needs to be in­spired to im­prove their in­dus­try: its prof­itabil­ity, out­put, lev­els of in­vest­ment and skill sets, as well as the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in which it sits. We must help farm­ers to work to­gether and in new ways for the bet­ter per­for­mance of their own busi­nesses as well as the wider econ­omy.

The CLA sug­gests that a step change in con­ser­va­tion can be based on a new con­tract be­tween the farmer and the state—a part­ner­ship that clearly sets out goals, re­wards and penal­ties for both par­ties, as in any con­tract, and one that pays a fair re­turn for the ser­vices pro­vided, such as man­ag­ing the land to store and clean wa­ter, to cre­ate and main­tain wildlife habi­tats and to meet the right standards of food pro­duc­tion.

A strong farm­ing in­dus­try is the heart­beat of a suc­cess­ful coun­try­side’ ‘For the past 43 years, most of the reg­u­la­tion and sup­port for the coun­try­side has come via the EU

These ob­jec­tives are what the CLA’S Coun­try­side Mat­ters cam­paign is all about. It’s about giv­ing ev­ery­one a chance to show that they be­lieve the coun­try­side should be a pri­or­ity, that it’s a wor­thy pub­lic in­vest­ment and that the re­turn on that in­vest­ment ben­e­fits us all.

The CLA will be out and about mak­ing this pos­i­tive case through­out 2017. We will be mo­bil­is­ing those who live and work in the coun­try­side to en­sure their voice is heard at this crit­i­cal junc­ture. Above all, we will be reach­ing out to those who live and work in towns and cities, whose love for the coun­try­side is no less strong, to help them to un­der­stand why in­vest­ment is needed.

To­gether—in­di­vid­u­als and a coali­tion of like-minded or­gan­i­sa­tions—we can grasp the op­por­tu­nity that lies ahead. We can leave po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in no doubt that sup­port­ing the coun­try­side is the right thing to do and that a liv­ing, work­ing coun­try­side ben­e­fits us all.

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