A £20 million training scheme has been launched at the Herefordshire College of Technology by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

A subsidised training programme for 90,000 people in country areas was launched by Mr Paterson on his rural roadshow on Monday (February 4) at the college's Holme Lacy base.

The college is one of those that will deliver the subsidised training that will help local farmers, foresters and horticulturalists grow their businesses.

Mr Paterson told the Hereford Times that young people were core to the economic future of the rural areas.

"We are putting in £20m because young people are the absolute lifeblood of the rural economy," said Mr Paterson.

"Our absolute number one priority in Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is to galvanise the rural economy. We can't do that without lots of enterprising, well trained, skilful young people.

"We've seen some very good examples this morning walking around here."

Mr Paterson met with students doing day release courses from their jobs in the farriery business and forestry. He said that for too long the needs of rural business people have been overlooked.

"I've been an MP since 1997, that is 15 years representing a rural area in Shropshire, going to London meeting very well meaning ministers, all with the best of intentions, but who frankly did not have a clue about how life in a rural area worked," said Mr Paterson.

"I am trying to change that because I bring real knowledge of the countryside and I feel I can represent places like Herefordshire when I speak up in Government.

"It's my job to make sure that other ministers do take on board the needs of the countryside when they bring forward different policies."

The idea behind the Rural Roadshows is to allow Defra ministers to hear about issues from the people who live and work in rural communities.