News Archive pre-2008

 

The Ruby Lecture 2007

Professor Michael Winter presented the Ruby Lecture on "Rural Development: The Way Ahead?" on Wednesday 28th November at Holsworthy.
Click here to see the PowerPoint slides that accompanied the lecture.

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CRPR research student Gordon Morris attended the Commonwealth People's Forum (CPF) in Kampala, from 16th November until 21st November, to help run a workshop about how links between various groups in Commonwealth countries can improve wellbeing and health. The workshop was organized by a UK-based group called BUILD (Building Understanding Through International Links for Development http://tinyurl.com/37dvsn).
The findings from the CPF workshops are explored with Commonwealth Foreign Ministers via "round table" discussions, and are also submitted to Commonwealth Heads of Government.

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Michael Ireland gave a paper on second home owners at the Regional Studies Association / Romanian Academic Society Conference in Cluj, Romania. Click here for the PowerPoint presentation.

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The CRPR has published a new report on the State of Farming in Devon. The report, the latest in the series commissioned by Devon County Council, draws on a range of published and unpublished data sources in order to identify some of the key trends and changes that have emerged over the last 4-5 years. The report states that “Devon’s agriculture has yet to reach a ‘tipping point’, a point of no return in terms of agricultural decline” and goes on to say that: “The combined effects of animal disease, depressed incomes and policy change mean that Devon’s farmers, like those elsewhere in the country, have experienced a difficult period of adjustment in recent years. This period of transition is not over yet and there will be more change to come. No doubt some will decide that it is time to end their career on the land but most changes currently in place, and those planned, are part of well established trends. Click here to download the full report.
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Matt Lobley will present the findings of recent research on Indicators for Sustainable Farming and Food to Sir Don Curry and members of Defra’s Sustainable Farming and Food delivery team when they visit the region on November 7th. Click here to download the full report.
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The CRPR has published a report (commissioned by Devon County Council) on the Provision of advice to farmers and land managers in the Culm area of Devon. Although the report does not indicate that the Culm area is lacking in terms of advisory services in a general sense, it does identify some specific gaps in terms of delivery and the need to differentiate between different kinds of client group with differing advice needs. Click here to download the full report
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Staff changes at the Centre

Martin Turner has stood down as Assistant Director of the Centre, a position he had held alongside Matt Lobley for the previous four years. Martin, now based in the Department of Geography, continues to work with Centre staff on a number of joint projects. Matt Lobley continues as Assistant Director.
Hermann Gilligan, an anthropologist with long standing research interests in Cornwall, has been appointed an Honorary University Fellow in the Centre.

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The CRPR has appointed Helen Blackman as Research Fellow on a new British Academy funded project to catalogue and archive the Centre's Farm Business Survey records which date back to the 1930s.
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On September 21st Professor Michael Winter will chair an event organised by the Community Council of Devon called ‘Supporting our rural communities in challenging times’. Click here for further information
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Tuesday Sept 4th: CRPR Director, Michael Winter, speaks today at a Defra Workshop on the potential for producing biogas from agricultural waste. The key-note speaker is Defra minister Jonathan Shaw MP. Professor Winter warns the minister and delegates of the extent of likely opposition to schemes which many members of the public see as detrimental to the local environment. His plea is for a commitment to involve local people more centrally in the planning for renewable energy schemes at a local level. There needs to be local engagement and ownership.

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Thursday 11th October 2007: Michael Winter is attending the SW RDA Panel of Economists today. He will be speaking about the Index of Sustainable Economic Well-Being.
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The latest report from the Centre entitled Agricultural Change and Farm Incomes in Devon: An Update has just been published (June 2006) and is available to download by clicking on the highlighted link.
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The rationale and potential impact of HFA reform was published in May 2006 and may be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on the highlighted link.
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Our research on The Wider Social Implications of Agricultural Restructuring, funded by DEFRA, indicates that the personal and social costs of agricultural adjustment are currently being internalised in farming families and that this may have longer term social repercussions. Confidence and self-respect amongst many farmers is low and needs to be promoted so that they are seen (and see themselves) as valued members of a newly emerging multifunctional land management community. The research has also shown that those who have actively restructured their business and stepped off the agricultural treadmill gain benefits in terms of reduced stress, more time for family activities and the opportunity to get away from the farm. Diversification was associated with social as well as economic benefits as farmers are drawn into a wider set of social networks and customer relations. A summary report is also available by clicking here.
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December 2005 - New editions of the Centre's Farm Management Handbook and of the Farm Management Data CD are now available. Follow this link for details.
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Economic and Operational Impacts of the Proposed EU Directive laying down Minimum Standards for the Production of Chickens kept for Meat Production was published in November 2005. Negotiations between member states on the legislation are still ongoing and the objective of the research, which was undertaken in conjunction with ADAS, was to inform the debate. Profit margins in broiler production are insufficient to cover the anticipated cost increases arising from the legislation, so it will be necessary for consumers to pay more for the enhanced welfare chicken. The Centre's Press Notice on the report can be seen by clicking here.
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In October 2005, the Centre published The Impact of Organic Farming on the Rural Economy in England. Commissioned by DEFRA, the report looks at whether organic farming provides an additional benefit to the rural economy over and above that of conventional agriculture.
The work was undertaken jointly by the Centre for Rural Research, University of Exeter, and the Rural and Tourism Group, University of Plymouth, with additional contributions from the Countryside and Community Research Unit, University of Gloucestershire, Elm Farm Research Centre and Henry Doubleday Research Association.
The Centre's Press Notice on the report is available by clicking here. A summary report may also be downloaded by following this link
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We are delighted that our Head of Centre, Professor Michael Winter, was awarded the OBE for services to rural affairs in the Queen's Birthday Honours List published in June 2005. This new honour follows his appointment to the Board of the Countryside Agency earlier in the year.
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The South West Rural Development Agency has released a report produced by the Centre on the Economic Impact of Bovine Tuberculosis in South West England. The research, undertaken over the 2004-05 winter period, was funded by the RDA. A full picture was built up of the social as well as the financial costs of the disease. Most farms suffering a TB breakdown received financial compensation sufficient to reduce the measurable financial cost to themselves to less than £1000, and few farms made gains or losses greater than £10,000. Farmers were concerned that the government is seeking to cut compensation levels, and it is difficult to make sound business decisions in a situation of uncertainty about future herd health. In addition to the 100 plus farmers interviewed for the study, rather more than 40 rural stakeholders were interviewed. Amongst those were officers of the Farm Crisis Network and Rural Stress Information Network, who provided additional evidence of the damaging effect on families as well as farmers of the emotional roller-coaster of the TB testing cycle and its wait for results. The Centre's Press Notice on the report can be read here.
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The second Centre for Rural Research Policy Symposium, Food, Farming and Rural Economics, was held on 26th January at the centrally located Southgate Hotel, Exeter. All places were taken and delegates from many different parts of England played a full part in what became much more than a simple one-way transfer of information and ideas. The subject matter ranged from the impact of CAP reform to the process of entry to and exit from agriculture, trends and directions in food research, factors influencing the economic performance of rural areas, and the role of women in rural economies. Synopses of papers presented can be seen by following this link.
Timed to coincide with the Policy Symposium, the Centre for Rural Research has also published the latest CRR Annual Review. Papers in the Review in some cases supplement those presented at the Symposium and in others add new perspectives on matters as diverse as Promoting Rural Sustainability and a preliminary review of some fascinating new research on the ways in which agriculture was radically re-organised during the Second World War. The CRR Annual Review 2004, published at £15, is available here for free download.

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Tuesday 3rd January - The Centre for Rural Research has issued a News Release drawing attention to two reports on pig production. Pig Production 2002-03, the results of the National Survey of the Economics of Pig Production, is number 60 in the Special Studies in Agricultural Economics series and The Pig Sector in England and Wales is number 61. The former contains the results of the most recent cycle of the National Survey of the Economics of Pig Production. The latter is a study of data collected from farms in the Farm Business Survey with pigs in the two years 2001-02 and 2002-03. Endemic disease in the national pig herd affected the results of both studies and the sharp downsizing of the national herd (a 39 per cent reduction over six years) is also commented on in both reports.
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Neither of the two FBS years nor the pig special study year produced especially good financial results. Particularly notable was that whilst the year of the special study (1st October 2002 to 30th September 2003) was at first sight a good year in terms of finished pig prices and margin over feed, it proved considerably less good at the net margin level. The study revealed marked changes since the previous (1996-99) study in the technical and economic structures of production. Much of the change, manifested in poorer farrowing, weaning and mortality rates, was due to disease. The report says that the pig industry has done its best to combat both the diseases and their effects. "Many adjustments have been made, but it is clear that prices have not increased by enough to cover the increased costs of producing at a lower level of technical efficiency."
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Friday 24th September - Market Towns, Parish Councils and Rural Policy -  Professor Michael Winter is a keynote speaker at two conferences this week. Today he addresses the Action for Market Towns Annual Convention in Romsey, Hampshire, and tomorrow, Saturday 25th September, he is the speaker for the Annual General Meeting of the Devon Association of Parish Councils in Exeter. In both cases he will provide an introduction to the changes in rural policy brought about by the Government's recently published Rural Strategy. He will also draw on his experience of chairing a Market and Coastal Town Initiative steering group for Hatherleigh in West Devon. Follow this link to view Professor Winter's PowerPoint presentation for the AMT Convention.
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Wednesday 11th August 2004 - The Structure and Economics of Broiler Production in England is now published and available to download. Presenting the results of a ground-breaking study, the report provides for the first time the detailed costs of broiler production in England, revealing - amongst much else - that profit margins are rather slim, on average just three pence on a bird that leaves the farm valued at £1.16. Close uniformity of production efficiency was found almost throughout the broiler production industry, the chickens sold mostly falling within a fairly close range on measures such as days on farm and weight at sale. Although the great majority of chickens produced are housed intensively, free-range production was also represented within the study, and was found to be rather more profitable - 24.5 pence per bird. The free-range birds were sold at much the same weight as intensively produced birds, but grew more slowly over a longer period, and the labour requirement of free range production was very much greater.

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Tuesday 15th June 2004 - A new report on The Impact of CAP Reform on Devon's Agriculture. commissioned from the CRR by Devon County Council is launched today at a multi-media event at Gingerland Farm, Cullompton. Changes to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy farm subsidy system, due to take effect next year, have been widely forecast to spell disaster for many farmers. The report says the CAP reforms will indeed represent radical change to the system of farm support in England. Payments will now be made at a flat rate, dependent on the area in which the farm is situated. But the authors of the report, Dr Matt Lobley and Dr Allan Butler, both of the University of Exeter's Centre for Rural Research, found that the picture for Devon will not necessarily be one of unrelieved gloom. Click the above link to read more about it and here to download the full report
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Thursday 22nd April 2004 - The Land Between the Moors; A Sustainable Land Management Strategy for the Culm Area of North Devon and East Cornwall is now available on the Countryside Agency Website. Professor Michael Winter and Dr Matt Lobley, of this Centre, contributed to the study, which was produced for the Countryside Agency by Terrafirma, Sustainable Futures and the Centre for Rural Research. The report comprehensively reviews the character and land-based economy of the large area of land overlying the Culm Measures in North and Mid Devon and extending into North Cornwall. A strategy for sustainable land management on the Culm and an agenda for action are proposed. Continuation of the strategic process is stated to depend very much on the reaction to the document, and the strength of purpose amongst key stakeholders who have taken part in its development and have expressed a desire that it should be taken forward.
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Friday 26th March - Defra has placed on its Website a full copy of an important study carried out for Defra by this Centre. Literature Review of the English Rural Economy, by Professor Michael Winter and Dr Liz Rushbrook set out to examine:
How rural labour and product markets work
The degree of interaction between different sectors within the rural economy
The interlinkages between the rural, urban, regional and the national economy
How interactions between economies might result in clusters of successful/sustainable and unsuccessful/vulnerable rural economies
The implications of geographical constraints that rural economies face
The trends in composition and performance in rural economies
The nature of commuting within rural areas and between rural and urban areas
How policy has affected the functioning of rural economies
How English rural economies compare to those elsewhere
What areas of research would be useful to inform future policy development
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Friday 19th March - Professor Michael Winter, Head of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources and Co-Director of the Centre for Rural Research, chaired the South West Rural Affairs Forum Conference "Mind the Gap". Staged in Bristol, the conference theme was "Driving the Rural Transport Agenda in the South West" and had as its keynote speaker the Rt Hon Alun Michael MP. Attendance at the conference was considered excellent, with around 120 delegates, including representatives from the County Councils, Age Concern, Youth Services and transport officials.
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In January, the Centre staged a Workshop on Improving Rural Delivery: Identifying Principles for Good Rural Delivery for the RSPB. The Report on that Workshop is now available in published form and can be downloaded here.

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The Centre's 2003 CRR Annual Review is also available for free download. The Review offers an overview of the Centre's work, reflecting the diversity of research activity in the Centre. Separate papers by leading members of the Centre cover topics ranging from the state of the farming economy in the South West, environmental behaviour in rural households and the impact of European Union enlargement on the rural sectors of central and eastern European countries. Each is an abridged version of more extensive and, in some cases, ongoing research.
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The Centre's recent report to Devon County Council, The State of Agriculture in Devon, is now available for free download. A prime objective of the report is to provide a concise but comprehensive briefing on the key issues for consideration in the formulation of rural policy in the county of Devon and beyond. Separate chapters address:
The Drivers of Agricultural and Policy Change
The Nature of Agricultural Change in Devon
The Impact and Implications of the 2001 FMD epidemic
The Implications of the Mid Term Review of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy
As a taster, the Contents Page and Executive Summary are available as a separate item. It is a smaller file and for those using a modem will download more quickly. A separate essay, Mind the Gap, The Space Between CAP Reform and Implementation, by two of the authors of the main report, Matt Lobley and Allan Butler, is included in the full report as an addendum. That too can be downloaded separately here.
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Cornish farmers challenged to wake up to opportunities
At the Royal Cornwall Show on 6th June, Cornwall Taste of the West released a report from the Centre for Rural Research commissioned by itself in partnership with the Cornwall Agricultural Council. The report has raised considerable interest in Cornwall and elsewhere, not least because it challenges Cornish farmers to wake up to a number of food production, processing and marketing opportunities that already exist.
The authors of the report, headed by Professor Michael Winter and Research Fellow Matt Reed of Exeter University's Centre for Rural Research write that they believe the findings demonstrate a lively and vibrant agro-food sector in Cornwall with considerable development potential. "Farming is still facing huge difficulties in the county, as elsewhere in the south west region, but recent developments in processing and adding value offer room for some cautious optimism. Certainly we believe there to be scope for further targeted assistance and investment."
Click here for the Centre News Release and for a downloadable copy of 'Prospects and Priorities: Exploring the Potential of the Cornish Food and Drink Industry'.
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An item in the Farmers Weekly dated 30th May 2003 highlighted a Countryside Agency funded report from the Centre for Rural Research. Called Family Farmers on the Edge: Adaptability and Change in Farm Households, the report can be downloaded here. The research undertaken in North Devon for the report suggests that, since the onset of the farming recession and the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic, farmers have become less involved with civic society and "few knew the names of their farming neighbours". "Membership of the NFU has seen a dramatic fall, and debate on the future and legitimacy of hunting with dogs has caused divisions." Interviewed by the Farmers Weekly about the findings of the report, Dr Matt Lobley said, "If the future of farming depends on good relationships with the non farming population, then both sides need to get to know each other."
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In June 2003, Professor Michael Winter, Professor of Rural Policy and Co-Director of the Centre for Rural Research, chaired a seminar at the University of Exeter on The Provision of Legal Services in Rural Devon. The idea for the seminar came from Professor Kim Economides, Head of the university's School of Law, who also took part in the seminar. A Devon Law Bus is proposed, to extend into rural areas the services of the Devon Law Centre, which is located in Plymouth but serves the whole county. A study carried out for West Devon District Council in 2002 showed that as the distance from Plymouth increased, rural communities were less able to travel to Plymouth to use the Devon Law Centre. A law bus has been used with success in Cumbria and in Norway.
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Professor Winter delivered his inaugural public lecture on 26th March 2003. Entitled The Changing Governance of Agriculture and Food: A Regional Perspective, the lecture made the case for a new look at farming's relationship with policy. "For decades", said Professor Winter, "this has been seen as all to do with national governments and, more recently, the European Union. Farming fortunes have depended to an extraordinary extent on central policy decisions. But that is changing. Local and regional government play an increasingly important role in debates about the future of farming."
Professor Michael Winter, Professor of Rural Policy and Director of the Centre delivering his inaugural public lecture. The diagram illustrates, Professor Winter says incompletely, the inter-relationships of the many governmental and other organisations in a single county (in this case Devon) having some influence on policies affecting agriculture.
During the course of his lecture, Professor Winter also referred to the wide array of research interests that the Centre is developing, particularly in collaboration with the University's Geography Department. Current projects range from the core work of the annual Farm Business Survey, to studies of rural policy, the impact of organic farming on the rural economy, environmental behaviour in households and regional food networks.
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A major study of Diversification in the English Farm Sector was published in March 2003. Commissioned by Defra, it identifies major developments in the structure of the farming industry over the past decade. Follow this link to download the report.
A study of Farming within the Dartmoor National Park, completed in the second half of 2002, can also be downloaded here, as can the report on the National Survey of the Structure of Pig Production Systems, a postal survey of all pig farms in England conducted on 1st March 2002.
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In 2002, the Centre completed an analysis of The Rural Policy Framework in the South West for the Regional Assembly and the South West Regional Development Agency. The report, called Rural Policy: New Directions and New Challenges, can be downloaded by following this link. Also in 2002, the Centre prepared two Working Papers, designed to stimulate comment and discussion in the region, on The Possible Implications and Opportunities of Selected Curry Report Recommendations Specifically for the South West.

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