Tom Richmond: Down on the farm – Michael Gove must not refuse Yorkshire invitation

CLA North director Dorothy Fairburn (left) meets Michael Gove at last year's Great Yorkshire Show.
CLA North director Dorothy Fairburn (left) meets Michael Gove at last year's Great Yorkshire Show.
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UNLIKE most Ministerial visits, Michael Gove generated much residual goodwill when he visited the Great Yorkshire Show shortly after his appointment as Environment Secretary last summer.

He listened. He learned. And when asked to sign the CLA’s ‘I will stand up for the countryside by...’ pledge card, he committed himself to “fighting for those who protect our beautiful environment”.

Gunnerside farmer Annie Porter's hardship epitomises the struggles facing farmers in the Yorkshire Dales.

Gunnerside farmer Annie Porter's hardship epitomises the struggles facing farmers in the Yorkshire Dales.

Mr Gove has, thus far, been as good as his word – he’s raised the profile of the previously moribund Defra department with his sense of purpose. And, because of this, The Yorkshire Post hopes that he accepts this newspaper’s invitation to see, at first hand, the myriad agricultural, economic and social challenges facing the Dales.

As this newspaper’s series of special reports demonstrated so ably, these complex issues go to the heart of Mr Gove’s brief.

Yet, while Brexit is dominating the political landscape, a week mucking in – literally – on a Dales farm might help to better inform the Environment Secretary when it comes to preparing the rural economy for Britain’s departure from the EU.

It’s not just farming’s future which is at stake – the fabric of many Dales communities is eroding because young families can’t afford homes or feel that they have to move away to further their careers.

This was echoed by CLA North director Dorothy Fairburn’s tweets in support of the invitation: “Brexit is not always the immediate issue in the Dales!” she posted. “We agree with the sentiment – Brexit appears to distract from the bread & butter (or is that ‘farm to fork’) issues on a daily basis. Great to have spoken to @michaelgove at last year’s @greatyorkshow – would even be better if he could visit before this year’s show.”

Though Mr Gove is a cerebral Minister who relishes the political debate, the outlook from the ‘Westminster Bubble’ could not be more different to the challenges facing those farmers struggling in all weathers to make ends meet as they try to meet Britain’s food and environmental needs.

If he found the time to get his hands dirty, there’s every chance that the entire Government’s outlook will change for the better when it comes to the rural economy.