The outgoing Deputy President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has announced a switch of allegiance during a visit to a Hampshire farm.

Stuart Roberts was officially introduced as a member of the Liberal Democrats while joined by party leader, Ed Davey, and Winchester candidate, Danny Chambers, at Newhouse Farm near Alresford on Wednesday, April 27.

Mr Roberts recently finished his high-profile role at the NFU to become politically active. He owns and manages a farm and has held numerous senior positions in the NFU and the food and farming industry.

He was previously a Conservative Councillor in Hertfordshire but has since joined a growing number of farmers who are no longer supporting the Conservative party.

It comes as new analysis by the Liberal Democrats reveals farming income in Hampshire dropped by £22 million in one year.

The Government’s new overseas trade deals have been partly blamed for the hit to the region’s farming industry and farmers are now coping with spiralling costs.

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Danny Chambers, who organised the visit, said: “It was great to visit Newhouse Farm today with Stuart to discuss the huge challenges agriculture are facing right now, from the soaring price of fertiliser to trade deals that will undercut our animal welfare and farming standards."

"Not only are our farmers proud that we have the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but so are the British Public. Trade deals that compromise our standards in Britain will be bad for farmers, bad for animal welfare and bad for the environment. We need to supporting the production of high-quality, environmentally-friendly food rather than increasing food miles.

“As someone who grew up on a farm, I care deeply about the welfare and livelihoods of people who work in rural and agricultural communities. Rural mental health care is of a particular concern to me, with farmers and vets having very high suicide rates compared to the national average. More support is urgently needed for our rural communities."

Hampshire Chronicle: Stuart Roberts, Ed Davey and Danny Chambers

Mr Roberts will now help write the party’s new farming policies as part of his fresh political role. He said: “It is time politicians spoke up for rural communities who urgently need help and support

“The Liberal Democrats have proved they want to listen and engage with farmers who have been taken for granted by the Conservative party. What I have heard from Ed Davey and rural Lib Dem MPs such as Tim Farron is a party determined to campaign for policies which support the farming industry. I will be delighted to help the party’s newly formed Food and Farming Working Group in developing the right policies for farmers and consumers across the country.

“British farmers and food producers are amongst the best in the world and they are ready to deliver high quality, sustainable food produced in harmony with the environment and animal welfare. Yet time and time again this Conservative Government has badly let down farmers and rural communities.

“This is a pivotal moment for farmers with food security never a more important issue than today.”

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