Commission to tour UK asking farmers for ideas and concerns regarding Brexit

Researchers will travel by bicycle across the UK to ask the public, farmers and rural businesses what matters to them
Researchers will travel by bicycle across the UK to ask the public, farmers and rural businesses what matters to them

A Commission is to travel around the country asking the general public and farmers what matters to them regarding food, farming and the countryside as the UK edges towards leaving the EU.

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA), an organisation that seeks to enrich society through ideas and action, has announced its programme of public engagement, including a UK-wide bike tour.

It will hold locally-led inquiries in Cumbria, Devon and Lincolnshire and devolved inquiries in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has reviewed more than 1000 different policy proposals proposed by the experts – think-tanks, government bodies, interest groups and other influencers.

This reveals that while many are calling for significant change, proposals remain largely siloed and some topics important to rural communities are missing.

The Commission’s tour is hoping to close the gap. It will give farmers and rural businesses, who will be among the most affected by Brexit, a say. It will ask what matters to them and what changes they’d like to see.

The Commission is also calling for ideas - practical proposals that will make a difference. The call opens today (26 April) and closes on 31 May.

The unique public engagement programme will work with citizens, farmers, growers, businesses and community groups, to trial and recommend solutions that have the potential to transform the UK’s food and farming system.

'Bigger picture'

Sir Ian Cheshire, chair of the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said potential ideas are "much broader" than just focusing on replacing the Common Agricultural Policy and farming subsidies after Brexit.

“We’re looking at the big picture, linking food, farming, environment, health and economics, to create a positive, lasting future for the countryside, to be enjoyed by all - including the majority of us living in cities,” Sir Cheshire said.

“In taking this approach, we want to know what’s on your plate. We want to know what matters to you about the food you buy. But we also want to know what else is ‘on your plate’ – what matters to you about where you live and work?”

Sue Pritchard, Commission Director said: “Hearing from experts is important, but we know we all shape the future of the countryside, farming and the food sector every time we put food on the table, turn on a tap or go for a walk in the hills.

“I think people will share the Commission’s goal of finding ideas that work for all of us – good for rural communities and the rural economy, good for our health and good for the planet."

The tour follows news of the NFU appealing to farmers to participate in the government's consultation on the future of farming, calling it a "vital moment in time".

UK bike tour

Week commencing April 23rd in Lincolnshire

April 30th in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

May 7th in Scottish Highlands

May 14th in North East Scotland

May 21st in South East Scotland

May 28th in Central Scotland

June 4th in South West Scotland

June 11th in Northern Ireland

June 18th in Northern Ireland

June 25th in Northern Ireland and Cumbria

July 2nd in Northumberland

July 9th in Yorkshire

July 16th in Lancashire

July 23rd in Cheshire and North Wales

July 30th in North Wales

August 6th in West Wales

August 13th in East Wales

August 20th in Shropshire

August 27th in Staffordshire, Birmingham and Warwickshire

Sep 3rd in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

Sep 10th in Somerset and North Devon

Sep 17th in Cornwall

Sep 24th in South Devon and Dorset

Oct 1st in Hampshire

Oct 8th in Oxfordshire

Oct 21st in Surrey and West Sussex

Oct 28th in East Sussex and Kent