• What a show!

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    25 May 2018

    Last week I visited the Devon Show. This annual event billed as ‘farming, food, fun and horses’ is one of the greatest of its kind in the country. It is not just the livestock, horses, dogs, local food and drink, funfair and crafts that make it a great day out – for me it is also a great opportunity to catch up with people in one place. For me it was especially good to meet with the National Farmers Union and to discuss further the future of farming after we leave the EU. The government has just finished a major consultation exercise to establish the best approach. My view is that the NFU are absolutely right about the need to ensure that supporting the production of British food lies right at the heart of our approach. Our level of food security has been slipping over the years with a decline in the proportion that is sourced locally. We can not expect of course to produce all our food domestically but more can be done. Key in this respect will be the tariff regime that we implement post Brexit – I am fighting all the way to ensure that we do not go for cheap food imports at the expense of our farming communities. It is they that are the stewards of the land, the providers of the jobs on the land, the source of the work in our local distribution and processing businesses (like Gregory Distribution in North Tawton and the Crediton Dairy). My meeting resulted in some interesting ideas around taxation and farming and I will be organising a meeting at the Treasury to discuss these in more detail. We also discussed the problems associated with the delays that many farmers are experiencing with payments from the Rural Payments Agency. I am firmly on the case. I held a separate meeting with our young farmers. The average age of a UK farmer is 59 and we need to get that down and so I was keen to hear more about the issues that matter to young people who are trying to get involved with this vital sector. There were a number of issues around raising money and land values but what struck me most were just how many examples there are of young people innovating and creating successful new businesses through working in and around agriculture. From engineering businesses focused on agricultural production to cider making, our young people are out there making waves. This is something we need to continue to support and encourage if we are going to raise business productivity still further in Devon. I also had useful discussions with Mole Valley Farmers, the country store co-operative which supplies not just to the farming community but to the general public too. Time was also spent with Dartmoor National Park who I had met with earlier in the week in Westminster and also with Devon trading standards. More from Mel on Twitter @MelJStride and online at