With the summer months topping 40C and field fires breaking out with alarming regularity, the heat was certainly on farming and rural businesses in 2022.

But it was not the only place where the temperature was rising this year.

Running out of patience with the government

At the recent Rural Business Conference, Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Mark Tufnell laid bare how rural communities are running out of patience with the government. Uncertainty over the future of Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes is eroding confidence within the industry.

With environment secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey in attendance, Mark said that the delays to the rollout of the ELM scheme are unacceptable and compared the lack of clarity on payment rates to “buying something from the shop without knowing the price”. Early 2023 must provide some answers and we will continue to hold the government’s feet to fire.

Not all doom and gloom

However, Tim Bamford, Regional Director of CLA South East said: “2022 has not all been doom and gloom. The return of many of our wonderful agricultural and farming shows has been welcome, and we particularly enjoyed promoting the Countryside Code to more than 100 families through games and activities at the South of England Show in June. Importantly, they provided us all with an opportunity reconnect with friends and colleagues after such a challenging time.

“At the CLA, we used these events to meet with many MPs from our region to bang the drum on the matters of most importance to our members. At every opportunity we pressed home the importance of a profitable and sustainable farming industry. We raised issues with the planning system which is holding rural business back, called for a simpler tax regime and urged investment in skills and innovation.

“Our work on tackling rural crime continued this year, with some notable developments. Tougher sentencing and improved powers for the courts to tackle hare coursing were added to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. This means there are now greater tools that authorities can use for tackling the issue, which will hopefully help to protect farmers and rural communities who are victims of this crime. The new powers do, of course, require offenders to be caught, which is why the CLA is frequently in contact with police forces to ensure the rural voice is heard on all aspects of crime.

Rural businesses are being squeezed

“With the recent snowfall providing an Arctic blast for our region to end the year, the heat really does need to be on. And it comes at an extortionate price. From rising energy prices, higher input and raw costs, through to labour shortages, among other things, rural businesses are being squeezed.

“There will undoubtedly be more challenges to overcome in 2023 with increasing concerns of a potential recession. The CLA’s role in championing the rural economy and supporting rural businesses has never been so important.

Tim Bamford is the Regional Director of CLA South East, which represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.

By Ed

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