Boris Johnson has responded after Jeremy Clarkson called for the Government to prioritise farming, with the Prime Minister saying he wants to ensure farmers “make the most” of their crops and land.
Former Top Gear presenter Clarkson posted a video on Monday morning saying farmers had been asked to diversify their produce but were being restricted by local authorities.
He has become an unlikely campaigner for the industry after starring in Amazon series Clarkson’s Farm, which follows his attempts to grow crops and look after livestock on land he owns in the Cotswolds.
Speaking from a field and wearing a high-visibility jacket, the Prime Minister said in a video posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon that he wanted farmers such as Clarkson to be able to develop their properties “when they want to turn a barn into a bistro – or whatever you want to do”.
Clarkson has previously criticised the “not terribly bright people” who work in planning departments that have blocked him from making changes to his property.
Mr Johnson said he hoped Clarkson had been able to look at the Government’s food strategy.
He added: “What we want to do is back farmers in all sorts of ways, particularly making sure they have access to the labour they need but also supporting them when it comes to their fuel costs, their fertiliser costs, but supporting them also with innovation.
“And we are putting a lot of money into new technology. I have just been looking at a machine that can plant 150,000 cabbages, Jeremy, every day.
“What we want to do particularly for farmers – and I know that you care about this a lot – is ensure that we say that when farmers want to develop their property, when they want to turn a barn into a bistro – or whatever you want to do – that we make sure that computer does not say no and we help them, and we help farmers to make the most of their crops and make the most of their land as well.”
You go down to your own lake... haul in a net full of delicious morsels and then sell them to passing families as a healthy snack. Except I can’t do that because this isn’t a free countryJeremy Clarkson
In his original post, Clarkson said: “Hi, I am Jeremy Clarkson and in the next parliament I would like to see the Government prioritising farming.
“We have been asked to diversify and when we try to do that the local authorities tell us we can’t. That needs addressing.”
Asked why Clarkson had received a personal response, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “People accept that Jeremy Clarkson has voiced the concerns of the farming community quite effectively in recent years so it is understandable that we would listen.”
Last week, Clarkson wrote a column for the Sunday Times claiming he had been blocked from selling crayfish at his farm shop.
“You go down to your own lake on a lovely summer’s evening, haul in a net full of delicious morsels and then sell them to passing families as a healthy snack,” he wrote.
“Except I can’t do that because this isn’t a free country.”
American crayfish, such as those found on his farm, are classed as non-native and cannot be trapped without consent from the Environment Agency.