FARMERS spoke of the need to balance food production with managing the countryside during a meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Owen Paterson met farmers, Somerset NFU chairman Nick Bragg and Rebecca Pow, who is standing for the Conservatives at next year’s General Election in Taunton Deane, on Rodney and Claire Down’s Wrantage farm.

Among topics they discussed were TB in badgers, CAO greening, welfare in chickens and beef prices.

Ms Pow said: “With farming being such an important industry to Taunton Deane, I am working to ensure that farmers can continue the vital job of producing food while at the same time managing the countryside and I was delighted that we had an opportunity to discuss a range of subjects with Owen Paterson face to face.”

Mr Paterson said: “With so many issues at stake, it is important to understand how policy translates on the ground and I have taken on board many concerns including some planning issues, the complexities of required crop rotation through the CAP and broadband challenges.”

During his visit to Somerset, Mr Paterson also headed to Beer Wall, where the A372 crosses the River Sowy near Othery, to meet councillors from across the county and explain how a multi-million pound investment could help provide greater flood protection on the Levels.

He said: “I was pleased to report that the Local Enterprise Partnership has granted £13million to widen the flood channel on the River Sowy as part of the flood alleviation programme on the Somerset Levels.”