Rural Policy Group is delighted to feature in South East Farmer’s July issue, which can be read here. The article has been recreated below, however, we highly recommend taking a look through the magazine.
Founder & Chair Mark Lumsdon-Taylor sat down with Malcolm Triggs to discuss just how far RPG has come since it delivered its first RED Talk in April 2020.
One Year On
written by Malcolm Triggs
The Rural Policy Group (RPG) came to the fore in 2020 as the world shifted dramatically in response to the changes forced on it by the coronavirus crisis.
The group was founded in 2019 to support and promote the farming community and the wider rural economy, but it came of age last year, launching the Rural Economic Development (RED) talks that helped harness opinion and share ideas as the Covid-19 pandemic caused worldwide social and economic disruption and Brexit loomed.
RPG Chairman Mark Lumsdon-Taylor told South East Farmer that it was a conversation with Sarah Calcutt, Executive Chair of the National Fruit Show, that sparked the idea of a series of webinars designed to provide rural business owners with the information, business support and hope they needed to weather the storm.
“At that point we could not have known how quickly it would grow” he said. No-one could. In the first year more than 1000 businesses from 25 countries worldwide attended the talks. Here, Mark Lumsdon-Taylor tells the story.
“Since the first RED Talk took place in April 2020, lessons from the pandemic and lessons from Brexit have reshaped how many people view the world. Farmers have always known that their industry is a subset of the environment; now the rest of the economy is waking up to the fact that we cannot make a healthy profit without healthy people and a healthy ecosystem.
“RPG evolved to lead this systems-thinking approach from a rural-first perspective. The rural economy is the engine of sustainable growth, but it needs support to achieve change, and so we integrated economic social governance (ESG) and health & social care into our vision for a greener, more equitable economy led by a respected and profitable food & farming industry.
“Together with our guest speakers, drawn from politics, science, business, medicine, policy and academia, we have tackled pertinent topics such as agritech with Neil Parish, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, food security with Luke Pollard, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, mental health with Sir Norman Lamb, formerly both a health and business minister and in July, we turn our focus to the electrification of farm vehicles as part of the journey to Net Zero.
“The talks are getting rural business heard by policymakers in Parliament and change-makers in industry. We also lobby hard to raise the importance of rural communities and the rural economy in government policy-making; rural life has too long been underfunded, undervalued and underestimated.
“Last year we submitted a well-received report to government highlighting the concerns of the farming community. It addressed issues around food security, profit share within the supply chain, consumer behaviours around food, technological innovation and the types of government support the industry needs.
“What it all boils down to, however, is food pricing and this became one of our central pillars. How we fix the food system so it is profitable for all and provides the country with an affordable nutritious diet is something we will continue to research, debate and lobby for.
“None of this would have been possible without our network of partners and members of the Advisory Council who give their time and expertise enthusiastically in support of our shared aims: a thriving, well-respected rural economy driving a sustainable, equitable UK plc”.
Agritech and the Future of Food with Neil Parish MP and Rosemary Shrager. We discuss the role of agricultural technology in improving crops and driving cost efficiencies.
National Fruit Show 2020: British Produce Futures. A stellar panel including Lord Krebs and Teresa Wickham discuss the role of the fruit industry in feeding future generations, and how the industry can evolve to meet the challenges it faces.
Food After Brexit. Daniel Zeichner MP, Shadow Environment Minister, and others explore how leaving Europe has impacted on food prices, international trade and the UK’s food system.