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CLA monthly column: Last peg lifted, but the work continues

06:00 14 July 2014

New Anglia LEP Chairman Mark Pendlington, Therese Coffey MP, Nicola Currie, Peter Aldous MP, and David Lawrence, Principal of Easton and Otley College, at the CLA’s Suffolk Show marquee.

New Anglia LEP Chairman Mark Pendlington, Therese Coffey MP, Nicola Currie, Peter Aldous MP, and David Lawrence, Principal of Easton and Otley College, at the CLA’s Suffolk Show marquee.

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While the frantic summer cycle of CLA appearances at county agricultural shows in the region has come to an end, the impact of the work we have undertaken at them will continue to benefit farmers and landowners beyond the lifting of the final marquee peg.

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The Suffolk Show offered the regional team a valuable platform to not only meet and advise our members, but to also meet MPs and lobby a senior Defra figure.

On the first morning of the show the CLA staged a joint event with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) that focused on how the future prosperity of the rural economy can be secured and outlined the latest grant funding opportunities for rural businesses.

Mark Pendlington, Chairman of the New Anglia LEP, CLA Eastern Regional Director Nicola Currie, and David Lawrence, Principal of Easton and Otley College, talked about their organisation’s partnership and plans to attract new business to the region’s internationally recognised agri-tech sector.

There have been big changes in the grant and support systems for rural business so this event was vitally important to get the message out that the LEP is open for business, with the Growing Business Fund to help SMEs expand, invest, and recruit new staff, and the £2.5million Eastern Agri-Tech initiative, which supports new ideas to help develop agricultural productivity and develop new technology.

The event was attended by MP for Waveney Peter Aldous and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who also discussed the rural economy’s need for fit-for-purpose broadband. This is an issue firmly at the top of the CLA’s agenda, so it was heartening to know the New Anglia LEP shares our concerns and is fighting to ensure Suffolk and Norfolk gets the service it so desperately needs.

We also played host to Lord De Mauley the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Science visit our stand. Nicola Currie, along with the CLA’s Forestry and Woodland Committee Chairman Graham Downing and Andrew Blois from the Suffolk Branch Committee, offered a view point on tree diseases, the broadband roll-out and ‘not-spots’, and irrigation and abstraction from an East Anglian perspective.

Following the Show, Lord De Mauley offered his thanks for what he found to be a valuable meeting, and it is hoped the in-depth local knowledge imparted to him will now help to influence decision-making at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

As well as giving us the chance to lobby, the show also gave us the opportunity to show our support for local food and drink producers.

Our inaugural ‘Foodie Showcase’ saw six interactive tasting sessions held across the two days of the Show, with Kenton Hall Estate, Fielding Cottage, Marybelle Dairy, Suffolk Food Hall, and DJ Wines offering people the chance to sample longhorn beef burgers, goats cheeses, Greek yoghurt, barbecue food designed for children, and various fruit wines and liquors respectively.

These were well attended and enthusiastically supported, and we will be giving more businesses the chance to build awareness of their products among visitors to the Suffolk and Royal Norfolk Shows next year.

A fortnight later we engaged with farmers and landowners from all over the country at Cereals, the premier arable event, which was held in Cambridgeshire at Chrishall Grange.

CLA Agricultural Adviser Ed Barker and Conservation Adviser Charlotte Lay attended and offered much advice on the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the impacts on agri-environment schemes. If you’re still looking for clarification on how this will affect your business, please contact the eastern regional office.

Also at the Show, former NFU President and current Chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Peter Kendall addressed a CLA breakfast meeting that was filled to the point of being standing room only, while Environment Secretary Owen Paterson met with Nicola Currie and a local landowner to discuss the December tidal surge, and proposed local solutions to eastern flood and coastal defences.

The final two legs of our summer tour took us to the Lincolnshire and Royal Norfolk Shows, where our advisers offered advice on a wide range of issues to visitors to our stand – however the main subject remained CAP, as it has done over the course of the summer.

If you visited the CLA at one of our marquees at a Show over the summer, be it in Suffolk or beyond, at a breakfast meeting or simply to get some advice, we would like to get your feedback. Please call the Regional Office on 01638 590429 or email east@cla.org.uk and help us shape our planning for summer 2015.

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