Farming Minister Robert Goodwill and other senior Whitehall officials have been invited to meet with rural leaders in Yorkshire to discuss the role government can play in giving agricultural businesses the crucial support they need to flourish over the next decade and beyond.
A letter co-signed by an influential group of food and farming figureheads from across the region, and the chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, David Kerfoot, spells out why the new collaborative regional initiative Grow Yorkshire, and the region it serves, is worthy of central government backing.
The agricultural sector already makes a £438m contribution to the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding economy alone but Grow Yorkshire backers believe there is great potential for businesses to seek greater profitability.
Writing to Mr Goodwill, who is also MP for Scarborough and Whitby, the group say: “Our farming community is facing the most fundamental changes to the business environment it operates in for generations. Despite this, it is our belief that times of change and challenge bring opportunity.
“We... have united to wholeheartedly back the industry to seize that opportunity... and are now asking for your commitment to back us in achieving this.”
The letter continues: “Farming is central to the economic, environmental and social fabric of our great county of Yorkshire.
“The farmers and food companies based in Yorkshire don’t just feed the nation; they manage globally important landscapes which support a thriving tourism industry. They are the bedrock of our rural communities and provide crucial public goods that benefit wider society.”
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society, National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Country Land and Business Association and regional food group Deliciously Yorkshire are among the more than 30 organisations and businesses committed to delivering business support through Grow Yorkshire.
Their letter adds: “We are the people and organisations closest to our farmers and food producers. We understand their pressing needs, and the areas of opportunity. This is why we have created Grow Yorkshire as a platform to create and communicate solutions to grow farm incomes and productivity, positively impacting food production and ultimately grasping the opportunities that will undoubtedly arise from this period of uncertainty.”
Grow Yorkshire’s immediate priorities are to offer practical business planning support to farmers; get clarity from the Government on what farmers and landowners stand to earn from providing “public goods” such as environmental improvements, as set out in the Government’s latest future farming policy papers; supporting farm businesses and households to manage change and business succession, and enabling farmers to become more innovative.
A dedicated Grow Yorkshire website will act as a hub where farmers and other businesses can find information and access support, including training and funding.
Backing the campaign, Adam Bedford, regional director at the NFU, said: “The collaborative approach through Grow Yorkshire to focus on helping farm businesses become more profitable for the long term is very welcome.”
Responding to the letter, Mr Goodwill said: “I am delighted to welcome the new Grow Yorkshire initiative. Our vision at Defra is for increased collaboration among farmers and land managers, where Government and the farming industry provide advice, guidance and support to ensure that farmers can innovate and adapt to produce more food while protecting the environment.
“Initiatives like this provide farmers with opportunities to transform their business into one that is more competitive, productive and resilient, providing the support to drive change. Outside of the CAP, when our own domestic farming policy becomes law, this will be supported by more funding for innovation, research and development and sustainable farming."
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