Devon’s farmers are calling on the new Government to back up its manifesto pledges with the action required to secure a sustainable, profitable farming industry that can continue to make a substantial contribution to the economy of the county and the wider South West.

Currently farming contributes almost £800 million a year to the county’s balance sheet and the industry directly employs nearly 19,000 people.

But falling prices for beef, lamb, grain and dairy produce, and rising prices for the things farmers have to buy (such as fertiliser) mean every sector of the industry is currently under pressure.

Speaking ahead of this week’s Devon County Show – the region’s first major agricultural show of the year – the NFU’s Devon chairman David Verney said that if politicians’ promises to build a robust, sustainable food supply chain were to be fulfilled, they must start with the industry upon which the whole process depends: farming.

“At the moment it seems that there is very little profit in the food chain from field to table. At a time when West Country lamb is in season and should be taking pride of place on the supermarket shelf, this lack of profitability is absolutely bonkers,” he said.

“But we are not looking for a hand out; we are looking for a hand up. We need the Government to do what it has promised and make sure conditions are right for farm businesses to be able to make money, because if farmers are making money then they will spend it. Many other businesses depend on the enormous contribution farming makes to the region’s economy.”

Amongst the pledges in the Conservative manifesto were: giving the Groceries Code Adjudicator more teeth; a 25-year plan to build the British food industry; promoting exports; increasing the Annual Investment Allowance and taking a scientific approach towards genetically modified crops.

The Government also committed itself to seeing through the 25-year bovine TB eradication strategy, which includes badger culling.

“A clear commitment has been made to continue the current pilot culls and to roll culling out further, and we would hope Devon is among the first areas to be considered,” said Mr Verney.

“It is also essential that the Government ensures farmers’ ability to operate and trade without further practical or financial penalties.

“Further, I would hope that the good work of the South West TB Farm Advisory Service can be expanded upon to create a nationwide TB Advisory Service as part of the Rural Development Programme, giving advice and training to farmers on how to deal with the consequences of the disease or help them remain disease free.”

He said he would also be seeking reassurances from Farming Minister George Eustice, who is due to visit the show on Thursday, that farmers would not suffer because of problems implementing the new Basic Payment Scheme.

“It would be entirely unacceptable if farmers were not to be paid on time because of problems with a computer system that were not of their making and I shall be asking Mr Eustice to make it clear this will not be the case.”

NFU Deputy President Minette Batters will be at the show on Thursday 21 May, with Vice President Guy Smith attending on Friday 22.

As well as offering the usual hospitality at the NFU marquee, which will be in its usual place opposite the cattle ring, members can take advantage of a 30 minute appointment with an adviser to discuss their Basic Payment Scheme application – call 01392 440700 to book a place.