THE Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has set out its own vision for agricultural reform in Europe ahead of the European Parliamentary elections on May 22.

“Enabling the Countryside to Thrive” makes recommendations to improve the north’s rural economy.

It has been sent to more than 40 candidates in the region.

Douglas Chalmers, CLA North regional director of policy and public affairs, said: “From the economy, to the food we eat, to the environment we live in, the EU affects us all. Our manifesto calls for widespread reform to enable the UK countryside to thrive.

“Rural businesses matter. They provide jobs and generate income. However, poor infrastructure and technology is a major frustration that undermines growth and we need specific policies to enable growth.”

Its proposals would help to create the conditions for rural businesses to prosper, support greater innovation in food and fibre production, and encourage more action supporting the environment.

Mr Chalmers said: “MEPs need to recognise the specific needs of these businesses so that issues such as poor broadband do not stifle the rural economy. The world’s population is increasing by 75 million a year, creating an ever increasing need for food. If this need is to be satisfied, MEPs must take a less risk-averse approach to exploring new technologies and biotechnologies.

“With 60 per cent of people now living in urban areas, the cost of public services such as the protection of landscape and heritage provided by landowners and land managers in the countryside is often undervalued.”