Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), has visited Herefordshire to discuss some of the challenges facing the county.

Cllr David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council, delivered a presentation which outlined the Council’s ambition to:

• Become more proactive and purposeful approach to land use planning

• Commit to growing and retaining value locally

• Support local businesses to grow, as they transition to low carbon

• Develop and deliver a new approach to inward investment and place marketing

• Put in place sector relationship managers to help businesses access the many different services we offer

In order to better engage with and support the farming community, the council has recently established a Farm Working Group meeting fortnightly with Local and Regional NFU representatives, the CLA, Farm Herefordshire and the council’s Rural Hub.

Cllr Hitchiner said: “We hope to develop a network of Farm Champions to provide a network of peer to peer support and encouragement, and our vision is that the Rural Hub will become a national test bed and centre of innovation in farming.

“Herefordshire has a long tradition of farming dating back to pre-historic times, and remains one of the largest and most innovative food producers in the UK.

“From the beginning of our administration, we recognised the importance of food and farming, so started to hold regular meetings with our farming community through Farm Liaison meetings.

“This led to a series of farm visits so that we could see at first hand the rapid changes taking place in all parts of the sector.

“We were hugely encouraged by Ms Batters choosing to visit Herefordshire, and it was a very productive session that made lots of good progress.”

Minette Batters was positive about the council’s approach in engaging the farm community and not waiting for government to sort out problems, particularly on phosphates pollution.

Cllr Hitchiner also spoke about the issue of river betterment: “We have formed a Cabinet Commission with Powys, Monmouthshire and Forest of Dean to develop an innovative new approach to managing the Phosphate challenges of the catchment.

“Later this year we plan to submit a proposal to DEFRA for a new route map for the Wye.

“We see the solution to the problem being in a ground-up, locally designed and led peer to peer solution, and we look forward to working with the NFU and our other partners on a scheme that will meet the needs of our farmers and the catchment.”