Landowners will have to farm smarter, CLA leader warns

Farmers are going to have to produce more high quality food, more smartly, using less land, industry leaders will be told today by the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Recently appointed CLA chief Tim Breitmeyer will address 500 industry colleagues at a Westminster summit alongside Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

He will warn that Britain’s exit from the European Union in 2019 means landowners must prepare for a changing world in which less of their land will be used for traditional farming.

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The CLA represents more than 30,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses across England and Wales who together manage in excess of 10 million acres of rural land, and Mr Breitmeyer believes the group’s members will soon have to dedicate more of the countryside to other uses such as natural resource protection, maintaining landscapes in a way that will ensure everyone can continue to enjoy and for building appropriate homes.

Reflecting ahead of today’s meeting on how leaving the EU will be “a defining moment for farming”, Mr Breitmeyer said: “Farmers will not have the luxury of being able to carry on doing the same thing year-in-year-out as they have done before.

“It will soon be time for every landowning farmer to make choices about whether their land is delivering the best income opportunities, whether they need to farm differently, or use the land for other purposes.”

While the CLA president believes farming practices will have to change, the industry remains vitally important to Britain, it just needs to be carried out in increasingly smarter ways, he said.

Around 70 percent of UK land is currently farmed and, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), is managed to meet 61 percent of the nation’s food needs.

Agriculture forms the bedrock of the UK food and drink sector which contributes £112bn to the nation’s economy and provides 3.8 million jobs, the NFU reports.

“Farming is vital to our future prosperity as a nation,” Mr Breitmeyer said.

“Producing enough high-quality food is our overriding purpose, but we have to be smart. Technology and scientific advances allow us to farm in new ways, to examine closely field by field where our land is and is not productive, to use chemicals more efficiently and manage breeding and welfare better than ever before.”

The CLA today publishes its Redefining Farming report, exploring how landowning farm businesses are adapting for the future. The document has been informed by a survey of 1,092 CLA farming members.

Mr Breitmeyer added: “Government policy will play a major role in how the farming sector harnesses the opportunities of Brexit.

“Exiting the Common Agricultural Policy is an opportunity to direct more investment into making farming more productive and profitable. It is also a chance to transform the business opportunities for farmers and landowners to derive a fair income for vital work that benefits the public, from addressing climate change and encouraging biodiversity to managing the landscape.”

Speaking alongside the CLA figurehead, plus Mr Gove, at what will be the second annual CLA Rural Business Conference in Westminster today, will be prominent environmentalist and the co-founder of the Eden Project, Sir Tim Smit, as well as a range of other industry leaders from across the farming sectors.