Prince William must pick up the baton and continue championing the countryside - Sarah Todd

A farmer will be crowned as king on Saturday and among all the brightly coloured robes be in no doubt of a rustic thread weaving its way out of London into the fabric of the countryside.

It’s a double edged sword. Somebody who loves and understands agriculture will be sat on the throne of England. It has to be a good thing for farming and wider rural life.

However, with the weight of the whole country and commonwealth now on his shoulders, it will be impossible for King Charles to be as actively involved in supporting farming.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The BBC’s documentary on Sunday evening, Charles R: The Making of a Monarch, included the marvellous story about his visit to Hazel and Joe Relph’s Lake District farm to learn how the foot and mouth epidemic was wreaking havoc with local farmers’ livelihoods.

'Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, must continue to champion the countryside'. PIC: Matthew Horwood - WPA Pool/Getty Images'Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, must continue to champion the countryside'. PIC: Matthew Horwood - WPA Pool/Getty Images
'Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, must continue to champion the countryside'. PIC: Matthew Horwood - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The programme told how he became firm friends with the couple, who thought he was joking when he said he’d return to stay in one of their farmhouse bed and breakfast rooms, but he wasn’t. In fact, he went on to stay with them many times and even invited them to his wedding. His Majesty thought long and hard about what he could do for farming and the upshot was, in 2010, the setting up of The Prince’s Countryside Fund. He felt passionately about the importance of livestock markets as social hubs and as for his views on farming with (rather than against) nature. Ahead of his time doesn’t even begin to sum it up.

There is a well-used pair of farmers’ boots waiting for Prince William and agriculture must cross everything that he rises to the challenge.

There will be so many worthwhile causes for the new Prince of Wales to champion that there is a very real fear that farming will get pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. As a young man there will be so many edgier photocalls that his office (presumably with less links to the countryside than King Charles’s staff) will push him towards.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Agriculture, as an industry, must not let this happen. It needs to sow the seeds and nurture it into a lifelong relationship. Thinking aloud, we need a campaign to get the Prince and Princess of Wales to visit the Great Yorkshire Show.

The King always seemed in his element touring the showground and a few hours at the country’s largest agricultural show would certainly set the young couple off on the right furrow.

Surely their Royal Highnesses would be concerned to hear of a rural cost-of-living premium? Just this week the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business warned those living in the countryside have to spend 10 to 20 per cent more on everyday items.

The MPs took evidence from more than 25 industry bodies to help explore the costs of living in the countryside, discovering premiums on everyday items like fuel despite rural residents’ wages being 7.5 per cent lower than their urban counterparts.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They concluded that 14 per cent of village halls are facing closure due to heating costs alone in the next six months. Meanwhile, the Citizens Advice Rural Issues Group has seen requests for help with housing costs double, whilst urban figures remained unchanged.

Poor connectivity has also hindered rural businesses, with only 46 per cent of businesses receiving serviceable 4G coverage.

Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), believes the depth of hardship seen across the countryside could have been prevented.

“Successive governments have turned a blind eye to the vulnerability of the rural economy - while outdated policies have damaged the financial resilience of individuals, families and businesses,” he says.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

To finish with a couple of positives, scientists have said it is crucial for human health that there is an end to the pushing of vegetarian and vegan diets. Almost 1,000 academics from leading universities across the world have signed an initiative which argues that livestock farming is too important to ‘become the victim of zealotry’.

Researchers found it is hard to replicate the nutritional content of meat, which they hailed for providing vital vitamins and minerals, dismissing any link between meat and disease as ‘almost eradicated’ when eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Other good news is that the Princess Royal, another farmer at heart, will be front and centre of the Coronation riding on horseback as the King’s ceremonial bodyguard. We must have faith that she will work behind the scenes to make sure the next generation of Royals remember their rural roots.