TOM HEAP, the BBC Countryfile presenter, is right to highlight misconceptions about farming – and the need for a greater appreciation of the “entrepreneurialism” of people who work in rural areas.
Even though this is a key part of the remit of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – the clue is in the name – it appears its priorities still appear to be predominantly animal welfare and campaigns to cut plastic use.
Yet, while the main issues featured on its website are important, such as World Elephant Day and a record-breaking year for hen harrier breeding, it should be going out of its way to promote every aspect of the rural economy from farming to the sustainability of local communities.
If Defra cannot lead from the front – Theresa Villiers has been a very low-key Environment Secretary since she was appointed by Boris Johnson – this country will not fully utilise the ingenuity that Mr Heap has highlighted.
Of course, this is not helped by the uncertainty over Brexit and the approach which will be pursued by Ms Villiers – one of the Cabinet Ministers who campaigned to leave the EU during the 2016 referendum.
The MP for Chipping Barnet in north London, it can only be hoped that she is spending her time visiting farmers, and touring the countryside, to appreciate the scale of the opportunity which does exist if the Government chooses to empower the rural economy. If not, the “homogenuous” statements so lamented by Mr Heap, and others, will only become more engrained in the public’s consciousness.