NFU President Minette Batters has joined the campaign to save Cumbria’s Newton Rigg College.
Local NFU representatives including the Cumbrian county chairman Ian Bowness and the North West’s regional director David Hall, have always been supportive of the campaign being championed by Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson, but the NFU President’s extra influence could prove to be a game changer.
Mrs Batters and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice MP hold monthly meetings to discuss national priorities in the food and farming sector.
Fortuitously, their latest meeting took place at the same time as a cross-party group of Cumbrian MPs wrote to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, asking for his support in saving Newton Rigg College from closure this summer.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “I was very happy to support Neil’s campaign to save Newton Rigg College. Institutions such as Newton Rigg are essential in educating the farmers of tomorrow. I know Neil has been a champion of agricultural interests and animal welfare in his constituency since he entered Parliament and this campaign further demonstrates that.
“I will give Neil all my support to help save Newton Rigg. Agricultural Colleges like Newton Rigg have a massive role to play in levelling up rural Britain. The British farming industry needs Newton Rigg and I urge everyone to work together with Government to secure a smooth transition to a new provider.
“Importantly, Newton Rigg can play a role in achieving the Government’s net-zero and environmental goals as those educated there will be the ones implementing and driving the necessary changes in the years to come.”
NFU Cumbria County Chairman Ian Bowness added: “Minette has informed me that her plea to save Newton Rigg College was heard by the Secretary of State. He agreed to investigate any propositions to safeguard the college’s future. Now the door has been opened with Defra we need to be very clear what our specific asks of Government are and how we’d like to see them support the retention and future success of Newton Rigg.”
There is now a short window of opportunity when interested parties can resubmit a proposal to the Department for Education’s Further Education Commissioner, ensuring that they are compliant with the necessary criteria to take over the College. Dr Hudson is working with stakeholders in this process of re-submission. The college trains students to go into the rural economy and health and social care sector, and it can play a vital role in helping to achieve the Government-led initiatives to reach net-zero carbon emissions, working for food security and upskilling our communities.
Dr Neil Hudson said: “I am delighted to have the support of Minette Batters and the NFU as the future of Newton Rigg enters a crucial stage. The NFU is an influential organisation in the agricultural sector, with over 55,000 members and having them lend their voice adds to the groundswell of local opinion that is opposed to the closure of the college.
“Cumbrian and British farming needs Newton Rigg. Our fight continues and I continue to call on Askham Bryan College to work with stakeholders and Government to facilitate the survival of Newton Rigg run by a new provider.”