Farmers use Devon County Show as a platform to discuss future of farming

  • Watch Bob Cruwys' report

The Devon County show made a return to Westpoint Arena today (Thursday, June 30).

Tens of thousands of people have spent the day at the first full show since the pandemic.

Richard Maunder, Chief Executive of the Devon County Agricultural Association, said: "It’s been the most challenging show we have ever had to put on.

"In all the time I have been here, it’s never been quite such a difficult sell. 

"In normal circumstances, traders are queuing up to take part. But this year has been very different. 

"Small businesses have suffered badly, people are still on furlough, staff numbers have been cut – all valid reasons for not being able to attend."

This year farmers have been moving towards a greener style of farming to promote biodiversity while also trying to feed the region sustainably post Brexit.

Organisers are hoping around 90,000 people will visit the Show over the three days.

Harry Barton, Chief Executive of the Devon Wildlife Trust said: "Right now farmers need all the support they can get.

"It is a total nonsense to suggest that we either have cheap food or we have a healthy environment.

"We can have it both ways if we are careful and if we are considerate about how we do it."

The County Show is an opportunity for farmers to come together and discuss what's going well, and what's concerning them.

Farmers and environmental groups say they just aren't getting the support to transition to greener practices.

Chris Clark, who is part of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, advises other farmers on becoming more in tune with the natural environment.

He wants farmers to find the "sweet spot" between profit and nature and says the Government must go further and faster to support that change.

He says: "We are trying to aim for the sweet spot where farming is at its most profitable and nature is at its optimum.

"Our leaders in our institutions are not buying this at all at the moment, they believe that we need to produce food at any cost.

"If there's anything the Government should be doing, it is funding farmers to make the transition from this 'output at any cost' to 'output at sustainable cost'."

George Eustice MP, the Environment Secretary, said: "Sustainable farming and food production actually go hand in hand because a lot of the things that people can do to farm more sustainability also reduce the costs for farmer and improve their profitability.

"We've committed to keeping the budget for farming at exactly the same level year after year during this parliament, the policy trajectory actually goes well into the next parliament as well."