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Farming

#FarmingMatters takes centre stage

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(L-R) FUW President Glyn Roberts, Y Tir Editor Nia Davies-Jones, FUW Managing Director Alan Davies and FUW Press Officer Anne Birkett

THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales’ campaign #FarmingMatters, which set out to demonstrate the key role that farming plays in the wider rural economy and showcase the wider social and cultural importance of farming in Wales with the wider aim of convincing the Welsh Government that it is essential to protect Welsh farming from the potential negative impact of Brexit, has been recognised at the UK Public Affairs Awards as the best campaign in Wales.

For the past 18 months the FUW has been busy highlighting why farming matters and when the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, immediately realised the need to raise awareness of the concerns for farming in Wales, mainly due to Welsh farmers’ strong trading relationship with the EU.

FUW Managing Director Alan Davies said: “I would first of all like to congratulate the staff at the FUW for their fantastic effort, which has resulted in the campaign being recognised as the best in Wales. For us at the FUW it became critical to highlight the potential impact any failed trade negotiations could have on the wider economy and multiple small businesses in the supply chain. The FUW further needed to create awareness, promote understanding and develop knowledge of the farming sector in Wales.

“It was determined that we needed to create an easy to remember message that raised the profile of farming in Wales and the risks to its future and we wanted this to be a phrase that tripped off the tongue.

“As the Union deals with Farming Matters on a daily basis, we saw an opportunity to use the double meaning of these words to highlight our key message. We do work on farming matters, but the truth is: Farming Matters, to so many, in so many other ways. This was seen as a neat play on words leading us to: #FarmingMatters.”

With this in mind the FUW set out to explain why and how farming matters to Members of the National Assembly of Wales and the wider public, with the view of changing attitudes and policies, and creating the understanding that family farms are the cornerstone of our rural economy.

The FUW ensured that the campaign was based on evidence in terms of importance, highlighting that farming is the backbone of the Welsh food and drinks sector, which employs 222,400 people, 17% of the Welsh workforce. The campaign further demonstrated that Welsh family farms do so much more than just produce food – they are the cornerstone of our rural economies and Welsh food production sustains tens of thousands of other businesses from upstream businesses such as feed merchants, agricultural contractors and engineers, to downstream businesses such as hauliers, processors and retailers.

In addition the campaign stressed that for every £100 generated on farm, £60 is spent within 7 miles of the farm, as well as making it clear that by managing of over 80% of Wales’ landmass, farmers play an invaluable part in managing and preserving a landscape which provides clean drinking water for millions, is diverse in habitat and species and includes more than 1,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

The FUW, through the #FarmingMatters campaign, communicated that other benefits of Welsh farming include major contributions to negating the causes and symptoms of climate change, whether through the storage of carbon in farm woodland, hedgerows and peat bogs, or the generation of green electricity through on-farm wind and water turbines.

By providing employment and economic growth in rural areas, the farming sector also mitigates rural depopulation, protects rural culture and heritage and keeps the Welsh language alive.

“We needed a multi-channel route to deliver our message and therefore arranged farm visits for Assembly Members across Wales, attended all of the Party Conferences held in Wales including speaking opportunities and conference debates at two, incorporated regular meetings with Ministers, Assembly Committees and Assembly Members, issued targeted news releases and ran a supporting social media campaign. All of this was backed up by regular repetitive and consistent messaging on #FarmingMatters,” said Alan Davies.

The #FarmingMatters campaign resulted in most Assembly Members, including First Minister Carwyn Jones, giving their clear commitment and backing to the Welsh farming industry, adopting our key messages around trade post Brexit, as demonstrated in the ‘Securing Wales’ Future – Transition from the European Union to a new relationship with Europe’ white paper in June 2017, recognising the importance of maintaining farming support after the UK leaves the European Union and backing the FUW’s call for a UK wide agricultural framework that respects devolution.

“There were also some unexpected benefits. Due to the success of the #FarmingMatters campaign we were able to convince a group of Labour politicians, primarily from urban constituencies, to come together at the Welsh Labour party conference in March 2017, to demonstrate support for rural Wales. The group is called “‘Llafur Cefn Gwlad” again a play on words as it means the “labour of rural Wales”. We will continue this campaign over the coming year and hope it will reach many more people, creating even better understanding amongst politicians and the public. ” added Alan Davies.

Farming

Areas of growth, opportunity, and inspiration: OECD report claims

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Food exports: Market messages need to be tailored

BRITISH food exporters need to gain an understanding of consumer needs in different countries if the UK’s farmers are to fully reap the rewards of overseas trade, according to AHDB.

In its latest edition of the Horizon Brexit series, AHDB argues that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to unlocking export opportunities should be avoided and that we cannot rely on ‘Brand Britain’ alone to boost sales.

The report, focuses on international buying behaviours and looks at exporting from a consumer perspective. It highlights the need for industry to monitor and adapt to the needs of each marketplace to create more opportunities.

The study included responses from more than 4,500 consumers in nine countries – from key UK export markets in North America, Europe, Gulf States and Asia – around what motivates and drives them to choose the food they buy.

Among the key findings was that, while seven out of the nine countries surveyed said ‘quality’ was the most important factor, both China and Japan stated ‘food safety’ as critical in their food choices.

Christine Watts, AHDB chief communication and market development officer, said: “Concerns and priorities vary by market and many could benefit from tailored messaging to appeal to these different interests.

“For instance, in China and Japan food safety is critical. Communication to these markets needs to be tailored to meet the desires of consumers so they know more about the safety of the food they eat.”

The report also closely considers the impact of ‘British’ branding overseas and looks at some of the opportunities and challenges this holds in a post-Brexit world.

Steven Evans, AHDB consumer insight manager and author of the report, said: “The research looked to capture the reaction to ‘Brand Britain’ and understand objectively how other countries see us. We found that many consumers have not had direct exposure to British food products and, therefore, have not had the opportunity to build a firm view of their qualities.

“This highlights that exposure to products and clear branding is necessary to drive awareness and build brand reputation.”

Other key aspects from the report include how different sectors also have different drivers in buying behaviour. For example, while quality was important for both meat and dairy, price featured second in the list for meat while freshness was the second highest purchase motivator in the dairy industry.

Also, promoting the same meat cuts across all countries would not be beneficial for British exporters as lifestyles, tastes and food choices differ around the world.

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Often, what we as a British consumer perceive as a good product message will not be relevant for all export markets.

“For example, the Chinese Sunday roast is not commonplace but Dong Po Rou (braised pork belly) is. Both hold a similar association as they both use larger joints but each fit very different meal occasions.

“We also know that a Chinese consumer is comfortable to view the whole journey from farm to fork. But it would be dangerous to assume that the same approach across all export markets will result in the same sales performance.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow for customisation and adapting to meet specific domestic demands. It is critical that British food producers don’t make assumptions that their product has the same relevance across all markets.”

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Farming

Rural areas vital for economies

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Areas of growth, opportunity, and inspiration: OECD report claims

RURAL areas are vital to national economies and addressing global challenges, according to the policy statement released at the 11th OECD Rural Development Conference held in Edinburgh.

The policy statement, which provides guidance to governments to support rural economic development, also declared that innovation will be critical to the future competitiveness and sustainability of rural economies. It also outlines the case for focusing on rural areas as engines of national prosperity and how policies should leverage this opportunity.

Jose Enrique Garcilazo, Head of OECD’s Regional and Rural Policy Unit, said: “Rural regions are not synonymous with decline or agricultural specialisation, but places of growth, opportunity and inspiration, yet rural is still not central to government policy. Rural areas have a key part to play in some of our major global challenges. They are best placed to develop new energy sources, to help sustain our natural environment and to ensure food security.

“In an increasingly interconnected world, opportunities are emerging to promote rural prosperity. Digitalisation will propel rural economies forward, and the conference has highlighted that supporting innovation in rural areas will be key to the future prosperity and wellbeing of rural regions.”

The policy statement identifies 10 key drivers of change predicted to influence the future of rural economies and communities and their potential to prosper, including additive manufacturing (for example 3D printing); decentralised energy systems; digital connectivity; the future of health; shifting values and preferences; drones; and driverless cars.

The statement also recommends that, in addition to prioritising rural innovation, a robust rural policy should place social, environmental and economic wellbeing at the forefront of policy decisions and take an integrated view across policy sectors to avoid one policy detracting from another.

The 2018 Conference, Enhancing Rural Innovation, was hosted by the Scottish Government and co-hosted by the European Commission and the UK, to provide a forum for key policy officials and academics from OECD member countries to engage and share ideas and experiences on rural policy.

It is the eleventh in the OECD Rural Conference Series, which has been held all over the world since its inception in 2002.

Prior to the main conference, a series of interactive sessions, led by the European Network for Rural Development, showcased exemplary projects and approaches already launched by rural communities to embrace 21st century challenges and opportunities.

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Farming

Rural Wales in ‘the 4G Wilderness’

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#4GforAll: CLA Wales highlights digital divide

NEW DATA gathered by the CLA has shown what rural communities have suspected for a long time; that the mobile industry is willing to abandon rural areas to the digital wilderness.

Director Rebecca Williams says: “Our information has revealed that too few planning applications have been made for mobile phone masts in our rural counties to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural community.

“Latest research has shown that a county such as Powys – which has appallingly poor mobile connectivity at less than 3 per cent – has seen just 13 mast sites applied for in the past 12 months, yet urban counties such as Cardiff have seen as many as 62 applications. Even a rural county, such as Monmouthshire, close to the urban centres of Bristol, Newport and Cardiff, has seen just two mast applications.

“With 5G on the horizon in 2022, progress needs to be better – and Wales must not be left in the boondocks. The rural community must not be excluded. Farms and rural businesses lack the digital service they need to be competitive. We must remember that this is not about resident population numbers, since mobile communication should be available to everyone everywhere.”

In February, the CLA asked Ofcom to force reluctant mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas by imposing a legally binding coverage target on their operating licenses. It called for EE, O2, Vodafone and Three to be required to deliver 4G coverage to at least 95% of the UK geographic landmass on all networks by 2022.

Rebecca Williams continues: “Three years ago, we were told that coverage would be delivered in the countryside and yet rural communities are still waiting. In the same period the mobile industry has extracted concession after concession from UK Government Ministers. They have got the new legal powers they wanted, on the basis that they are a utility service.

“Now they must be forced to deliver the universal service that a utility operator provides. We expect government and the regulator to take a tough line on this, and if Ofcom won’t then Ministers must step in.”

The CLA has highlighted Ofcom’s failure to push mobile network operators to achieve universal coverage for consumers. It is calling on the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to review Ofcom’s statutory remit and confirm that the body should prioritise working towards universal, quality mobile coverage for consumers.

“The mobile operators have no market incentive to improve coverage in these rural areas. It is absolutely clear that the only way they will deliver the coverage the countryside needs is if they are forced to do so. However rather than pushing them to achieve universal coverage for consumers, Ofcom is setting soft targets for rural coverage. As a result rural consumers face inadequate service and lack of network choice for years to come.”

Further information can be found at www.cla.org.uk/4gForAll and Ofcom’s 700Mhz spectrum auction proposal.

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