31 July 2013

What I Learned About Rural Affairs on Holiday

A week is a long time in politics. A lot has happened and there is so much to blog about. However I’ll restart my posts after my holiday with some things I have learned.

We’ve been on holiday in the Lake District last week. It was fantastic. Our boys loved it and we were fortunate to enjoy some very good weather. The camping experience was excellent, with some wonderful neighbouring campers and lots of the kids running about until late at night. I’m delighted we’ve offered support to the regional economy there, rather than abroad, but I’ve also learned a few things that I’m going to share with you now.

One quarter of farming families are in poverty.

The average age of farmer in the UK is 58.

60,000 new entrants are needed to maintain farming in Britain.

Speak to a Eurosceptic and they’ll no doubt point to the Common Agricultural Policy as a huge burden on the British taxpayer. They simply won’t care that some livestock and dairy farmers in the North West are earning as little as £8,000 a year. Without the CAP thousands of farmers would be forced from the land, and lead to the loss of the rural Britain we know and love.

There are some good news stories though. Solar farms, wind turbines and renewable energy are proving to be a new source of income for farmers. In a survey of 700 farmers by Forum for the Future reported by Farmers’ Weekly, 40% of respondents were making use of renewable energy, with 61% of those not yet involved, planning to invest in it.

I’m heartened that rural areas are actually ahead of their urban counterparts in micro scale generation. We have a long way to go, but farmers are acutely aware that as the climate changes cause more extreme weather, they can also be at the front line in tackling it.

But I'm focused now not only on those struggling in urban areas, but the rural communities who are really struggling with the cuts imposed by this government. I'll do what I can as an MEP to work on their behalf as well.

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