Young Farmers urge the Government not to forget the countryside when it comes to levelling up

Report by Julia Breen

Farming leaders are calling for "levelling up" of rural areas to boost green growth, with action on broadband, the planning system and tackling crime.

THE NFU say British farming and rural areas could play a key part in helping the country recover from COVID-19, by driving sustainable food production, and ensuring access to green space to benefit people's mental health.

However they want to see a 'growing rural urban divide' addressed, especially in areas including connectivity and broadband provision, and funding to tackle crimes that harm the countryside, such as poaching.

Sam Lambert helps on his family owned farm in Coverdale, North Yorkshire and says it's really difficult at the moment.

All this comes from a report from the NFU as part of their annual conference.

In her speech to the conference, NFU president Minette Batters said:

"Investment in farming and in rural Britain not only brings about obvious benefits to food production but can have massive benefits to the whole country.

"We need to enable collaborative green growth to level up rural Britain, providing the economic solutions to a truly one-nation UK."

Rural areas need better broadband and mobile phone coverage so people can run successful businesses, including farms, and the farm shops, wedding venues and B&Bs that many farmers have diversified into, the report said.

The countryside receives less in police funding per head than towns and cities, with an estimated:

But rural areas have increasingly become the targets of criminals, with hare coursing, fly-tipping, dog attacks on livestock, and machinery thefts hitting farm businesses.

With this in mind, the NFU are urging the Government to treat rural crime as a priority issue, as well as calling for a nationwide ban on sky lanterns, which pose a fire risk and can harm farm animals and wildlife.

Because of the contribution access to green space makes to the nation's physical and mental health, farmers' efforts to look after rights of way should be rewarded through the new farm funding schemes.

A DCMS spokesperson said:

"Good connectivity is absolutely vital and we are levelling up rural communities through a record £5.5 billion investment that will bring lightning-fast gigabit broadband to homes and businesses and end mobile blackspots in hard-to-reach areas."People suffering with slow speeds in the countryside can get immediate financial assistance to access better broadband through our Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme."