‘Dorset’s landscape without farmers would be House of Cards’

March 13, 2016


PUBLIC ASSET: Views like this one of Corfe Castle in the district of Purbeck, east Dorset, help to generate £1.5B to Dorset’s economy. The farming community and the conservation community (Wildlife Trust, RSPB, National Heritage, National Trust etc) are the main custodians of this landscape architecture.

Cllr Peter Finney

BIGGER PICTURE: Cllr Peter Finney refers to the £1.5B agricultural premium of Dorset’s landscape but the press release makes no reference to the farming and conservation industries.

David Handley

STRAIGHT TALKING: Farmers For Action chairman David Handley, who says farmers from all sectors and supply chain industries will be coming to London to tell David Cameron and Environment Secretary Liz Truss to face up to the crisis facing the industry and the wider rural economy.


Cow's that

RESOURCE EFFICIENT: This dairy cow in Stoborough, Wareham, wants a future. She is one of the best environmental workers in the job of keeping the countryside looking the way it is. Countryside views can’t be downloaded off the Internet nor can you plug a Fly-Mo into a hedge or a ditch.


DORSET’S unique landscape contributes £1.5B to the county economy – that’s according to a study commissioned by the county council.

It was led by a team of experts called Ash Futures, and they used a number of criteria were used to measure the environmental bounce including studies of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Respectively these two assets alone combine to bring in £176M of economic output.

The central estimate suggests that it supports around 30,000 jobs in Dorset and makes up 8 to 10 per cent of its total economy – roughly the same size as manufacturing (although there is some overlap).

Surveys with businesses, residents and visitors also showed a high level of awareness and appreciation of the WHS and AONB designations, as well as significant evidence that they have helped boost business performance. A Dorset County Council press release was sent to me by the Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England featuring the environment portfolio member, Cllr Peter Finney.

The council says it wants to build on this to bring sustainable development and make it part of the decision-making by the organisations and businesses that make up ‘Dorset PLC’.

In it, Cllr Finney says: ““Everyone in Dorset knows how special our environment is.  But this is the first time we have really been able to demonstrate its value in economic terms.

“We would encourage businesses, public bodies and communities to use this evidence to show the value of Dorset’s environment and harness its potential to generate future jobs, investment and prosperity.”

Well, yes and this can only be done if the land asset has a long-term future if those who maintain it – the wildlife conservation and food production sectors –  have their work valued. Without them, you don’t have the means to deliver it, Cllr Finney.

Traditional craft and niche food producers need to have a future for that that economic premium is to be maintained. If this is not the case, why are so many food producers are planning to go and protest in London on Wednesday 24 March? And why has there been an effective media blackout on this?

It reminds me of the Countryside Alliance protest I went to cover for a local newspaper in 2003. I travelled up with former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Somerset and Frome, Clive Allen. For many in the mainstream media, it was like a “good day to bury bad news”, as a certain spin doctor used to say.

If any county councillors (particularly Tory) are reading this blog, you will find elsewhere on this site that local food keeps for longer and is fresher and imported food goes off quicker. Factor in the insecurity of the world’s supply chain, security threats and fragility of globalism, and understand the consequences of sacrificing our food industry to the market place. Remember this phrase is doing the rounds on social media – No Farmers. No Food. No Future.

If you are not a conservationist or farmer reading this, neglected countryside will see a depreciation in your property if you live in a quaint village or small town and tourism will ultimately suffer, so buy local food as and when you can, more money is generated into a rural community than a trip to Asda, Sainsbury’s or Tesco.

Let your political instincts kick in. Serve your country and look after your rural constituents. Like has been argued by some in that party, pay a cost of production price for craft and food. See it as an investment in maintaining that environmental premium.

In a post on the Farmers For Action website about the coming march, chairman David Handley writes this to David Cameron and environment secretary Liz Truss: “You and your government have let our industry down. You have let the countryside down and you have made promises to many sectors that you were going to turn things around. What have you done?

“(Liz) Truss has told us to go to China (a failing economy) whilst you and your European colleagues have closed the door on Russia, having made enemies when there was no need to do so.

“British farmers are the backbone of food production and the caring of the countryside. However in recent months we have been blamed for the serious flooding; been blamed for the negative impact on the environment by several commentators so we are coming to the capital and would hope that you would be prepared to meet with us and hear what ordinary hard-working farmers have got to say.

“We will not be fobbed off by you and your ministers having cosy chats with the NFU to try and stop this from happening. We are coming.”

Take away the rock foundations away from the rural economy which the various sectors of the agricultural sectors and their supply chains represent, and you have a House of Cards, so will the real Conservative Party please wake up. In conclusion, as a Conservative instinctively myself, it gives me absolutely no pleasure in writing this.

  • IF anyone wants to join the London March, contact Farmers For Action wia their website


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