Association president says budget increase is needed to boost confidence and encourage new entrants
The government must back farmers with a £4 billion a year budget to win the confidence of farmers and the next generation.
That’s according to Country Land & Business Association president Victoria Vyvyan, who said in a speech at the organisation’s annual conference that the cash injection was the only way that farmers in England could deliver meaningful improvements to the environment.
The 2023 CLA Rural Business Conference in London was attended by both new Defra secretary Steve Barclay and shadow Defra secretary Steve Reed. Vyvyan took the opportunity to state that all farmers, including the next generation, need to have confidence that the UK government will back their ambitions for the environment, nature and food production over the long term, in the face of rising costs and inflationary pressures.
The current government is committed to spending an average of £2.4bn a year on the farming budget in England across this Parliament, CLA noted, but has spent less than that in each of the last two years.
It needs to spend at least £2.7bn this year to hit its own target, the association added, with Vyvyan urging those in power to go further. She also called on the Welsh Government to increase its budget to £1bn.
Opening the conference at the QEII Centre, Vyvyan told delegates: “There’s concern and confusion but there’s also excitement in the farming sector. Things are changing and for the next generation that means opportunity.
“We need an undertaking that Defra ministers will go in to bat for an agriculture budget north of £4bn a year in England for the next parliament. With this guarantee, businesses young and old can go to the bank with proof of affordability to finance growth, improve margins and confirm a future.”
Vyvyan explained how profitable farming can deliver for people and the planet, because it is in the very nature of land managers to deliver solutions.
The CLA has been working “robustly but collaboratively” with Defra to help improve its funding schemes, Vyvyan said, and encouraged farmers to apply for support through the likes of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and the Funding in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) programme.
But rural businesses are being held back by a planning system not fit for purpose, she continued: “Planning is not working at all and is a serious hinderance to the roll out of rural prosperity.”
Vyvyan also called for more to be done on rural skills provision, stating: “If we are going to grow the rural economy of the future, we need to engage with secondary education and help businesses to bring on the next generation.”