BY 2026, farming in East Devon is likely to be on a completely different scale from how it is today. And that will pose a challenge to those who manage land use and the shape of development in the District – the Members and Planning Staff at EDDC.
That’s the message given to an audience at Bicton College on Wednesday during a seminar organised by East Devon District Council.
Experts on the role that farming plays in rural communities and the local economy were guest speakers at the seminar, which was entitled ‘Towards 2026: The Prospects for Farming and Rural Enterprise’.
The seminar was designed to update key Members and Planning Officers at EDDC on the challenges facing rural communities. It also looked at how farmers could be supported by the local authority to give them the best chance of successfully delivering crops and produce in a volatile global market.
Among those who gave presentations during the seminar at Bicton College were Professor Michael Winter, Director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter; Melanie Squires, Regional Director of the National Farmers’ Union; John Varley, Estates Director of Clinton Devon Estates; and David Henley, Principal of Bicton College.
There were 24 Councillors and 12 EDDC Staff in the Bramley Room at the agricultural college on Wednesday to hear the speakers, and later to pose questions.
Professor Winter gave an insight into ‘The National and International Context of Farming and Rural Enterprise’, while Melanie Squires spoke on ‘Practical Challenges to Successful Farm and Rural Enterprise’.
John Varley outlined the ‘Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Rural Future’ and David Henley spoke on ‘Supporting East Devon’s Rural Workforce’.
Professor Winter spoke about Food Security, highlighting the need to double food production globally by 2050 to cope with increases in population against a backdrop of pressures on key resources like oil, water and fertilisers, climate change, soil degradation and a declining growth in agricultural productivity.
He added: “By 2030 the human population of the planet is expected to exceed 8.3 billion. Ensuring global food security is therefore one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, and it can only be achieved by dramatic increases in food availability across the world. Fundamental research in plant and animal science, sustainable agriculture, land use and ecosystem services, in addition to addressing the impact of social science to sustainable production and consumption, will be pivotal to meeting this exceptional challenge”.
At the end of the seminar, many of the delegates accepted an invitation to visit the college’s EaRTH* Centre, a dedicated training centre and conferencing space for renewable energy and sustainable building on which building work recently started.
Afterwards, Councillor Graham Godbeer, EDDC’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Chairman of the Seminar, said: “We now have a much better understanding of the challenges facing rural communities and in particular the farming sector in the current climate – and I use the word climate in every sense of the term.
“It was extremely useful for the delegates to understand what is happening to farming in a global level and to put a local context on that so we can understand the kind of support rural communities in East Devon will need over the coming 15 years. This will help us when we are dealing with planning issues for farmers and rural parts of East Devon”.
Councillor Ken Potter, EDDC’s Member Champion for Rural Communities, said: “It is clear that traditional small farms will gradually become less viable and farming will need to be on a different scale in future. This will present a challenge to those of us entrusted with planning, as rural East Devon could start to look very different from how it is now”.