Local Government Association & Local Government International Bureau
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Trade Unions Congress (TUC)
Universities UK and the UK HE Europe Unit
Westley Consulting Ltd
Wildlife and Countryside Link
Response from Westley Consulting Limited
Received 29 March 2006 EU STRUCTURAL FUNDS PROGRAMMES 2007-2013
DRAFT NATIONAL STRUCTURAL FUNDS FRAMEWORK COMMENTS BY WESTLEY CONSULTING LIMITED Westley Consulting is a foodchain business management company with clients in the private and public sectors. It has assessed the burden of agricultural regulations (for Defra); drafted the delivery plan on sustainable farming and food in London and the South East (for GOSE and SEEDA); developed new marketing strategies for farmer-controlled businesses; and helped many SME food processors access Government grants. Before setting up the company in 2003, Henry Brown was a senior civil servant in MAFF, advising Ministers inter alia on food marketing and competitiveness, and setting up and administering a range of grant schemes.
We have the following comments on DTI’s consultation document of 28 February 2006.
Question 1: Do respondents agree with the assessment in the draft National Strategic Reference Framework of the economic strengths and weaknesses of the UK’s nations and regions? Rural areas are mentioned in paragraphs 84 and 108-110. There is a particular need for support for the foodchain (predominantly rural businesses such as markets, abattoirs, and primary food processors). These are low-margin SME businesses whose sustainability is critical to the wellbeing of farmers, the environment and the rural economy.
For example, the physical appearance of areas like the Lake District and the South Downs is very dependent on extensive livestock grazing. The farmers concerned need a flourishing foodchain into which to sell their animals. Without this, the viability of the farms will be reduced, the healthy rural environment that Defra wishes to see will be prejudiced, and the wider economic benefits to these regions from tourism will be damaged.
Paragraph 84 implies that rural problems are concentrated in remote and lagging regions. This misunderstands the problem of relative competitiveness of industries in South East England. Costs for all businesses in the SE are raised by the proximity to London and the general prosperity of the region, yet returns for agricultural and food businesses are determined nationally (largely by the multiple retailers). So foodchain businesses in the South East face low profitability by comparison with competing sectors, and difficulty in recruiting staff. This is less of a problem in the lagging regions, where costs generally are lower. It is therefore wrong to target support for the foodchain preferentially on the more remote, lagging regions.
Question 2: Do respondents agree with the proposed priorities for future Convergence and Competitiveness Programmes in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar?
The following comments apply particularly to the situation in England.
Skills and knowledge transfer for the foodchain should cover:
Development of master butchery skills to support production of quality regional food;
On-site staff training in animal welfare and food hygiene;
Training in understanding the wider market place for managers and directors.
Knowledge transfer for managers and directors on resource efficiency and waste management.
Innovation for the foodchain should cover:
Innovative methods of waste treatment to reduce costs and improve sustainability. (Eg processing of blood to reduce its volume and turn it into a saleable soil conditioner, rather than a raw product that has to be tankered to a distant renderer at a charge of £65/tonne.) This is in line with Defra’s recent consultation on a review of England’s waste strategy.
IT and product marking for improved traceability along the foodchain.
Branding and other marketing development for high quality local food.
Improved collaboration with farmer suppliers.
Access to finance for farming and foodchain investment. Capital grants have made a significant contribution to developing primary food processing infra-structure primarily via the Processing and Marketing Grant and, whilst recognising the need for a more strategically targeted approach to support, direct investment support in these sectors will assist the development of infra-structure that will help to underpin the sustainability of agriculture.
If the previous grant schemes cannot be continued, there should be special arrangements for venture capital, soft loans and other innovative funding routes for foodchain companies.
Question 4: Do respondents agree with the proposals in the National Strategic Reference Framework for ensuring consistency between the Structural Funds and other EU policies and funding streams, in particular spending under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Fisheries Fund? It is Government policy, set out in Defra’s Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food, that farmers should reconnect with the foodchain in order to produce better what the consumer wants, yet Defra’s parallel proposals for the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 focus very strongly on farming and forestry, to the exclusion of matters beyond the farm gate. They state (paragraph 24) that “Structural funds would then primarily address rural issues as part of wider regional and sub-regional activity contributing to improved regional economic performance or as part of national employment and skills programmes.”
As explained under Question 1, a viable foodchain is essential to farm sustainability, without which the tourism benefits from a well-managed countryside will be lost.
This withdrawal by Defra from support for the foodchain means that the only way to ensure consistency is for the Structural Funds to fill the gap.
Westley Consulting Limited
16 Westminster Palace Gardens
London SW1P 1RL
firstname.lastname@example.org 29 March 2006
Response from Land Management Steering Group
Received 7 April 2006 Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food: Facing the Future
The Government launched its Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food in England in December 2002. The Strategy sets out how industry, Government and consumers can work together to secure a sustainable future for our farming and food industries, as viable industries contributing to a better environment and healthy and prosperous communities.
Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food in the East Midlands
‘Think Farming and Food’ is the East Midlands Action Plan to take forward the farming and food sector. It is being delivered with partners through three themed groups; Land Management, Skills and Business Support and Food Chain.
Land Management Steering Group Membership and Priorities 2006-8 Membership: National Farmers Union, Government Office East Midlands, English Farming and Food Partnerships, Country Land and Business Association, Welland Sub Strategic Partnership, Home Grown Cereals Authority, Natural England, LEAF, Environment Agency, East Midlands Regional Assembly, EMEL, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wildlife Trust, Forestry Commission
Chair: Andy Guy, LEAF Farmer Priorities: Increase in the use of bioenergy as a source of heat and fuel, to lower carbon emissions and reduce the impact of climate change and to provide a sustainable fuel supply and income source from the land.
2. Successful collaboration between farmers and farmers and the supply chain to secure sustainable businesses.
3. Efficient and environmentally responsible use of water and soil. 1. Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 The Steering Group fully supports the key themes of ‘Enhancing the Environment and Countryside’, ‘Making Agriculture and Forestry More Competitive and Sustainable’ and ‘Enhancing Opportunity in Rural Areas’ and outcomes proposed for the next Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013.
In addition to the proposed priorities and key challenges, the Group proposes the inclusion of a priority relating to the ‘responsible water consumption on land used for agricultural purposes’.
This might be achieved by supporting farmers to purchase water storage tanks (individually or collaboratively with neighbouring farms). This encompasses the three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environmental.
2. EU Structural Funds Programmes: 2007 – 2013 In general, the Group supports the priorities set out for future Structural Funds programmes in England. In particular, the Group reinforces the need for clear demarcation criteria and mechanisms for coordination between the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and Structural Funds. However, the Group would stress the importance of a degree of flexibility in cases where there is overlap between the types of eligible activities that can be supported.
3. East Midlands Rural Delivery Framework – January 2006 The proposals outlined in the draft consultation are fully supported by the Steering Group and it welcomes the inclusion of elements of the Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food. However, it is suggested that some points be expanded in order to reflect the regional priorities of the three Sustainable Farming and Food Delivery Themed Groups over the next 3 years. In particular, points 1 and 3 of the Land Management themed group priorities listed above.
4. Rural Action Plan The Land Management Steering Group supports the sub regional and local level actions included in the Rural Action Plan. However, it suggests that there be some expansion of points referring to the Sustainable Strategy for Farming and Food, to include a greater emphasis on the priorities of the Land Management Action Plan as listed above. In addition, the outcomes ‘improving the competitiveness…’ and ‘improving the environment…’, listed under section 3.6, could include a reference to land-based business collaboration and the benefits to the economy, society and environment.
06 April 2006
Response from Centre for Cities, Institute for Public Policy Research: