Change dominates discussion at SRUC/Teagasc Rural Futures Conference

Published Tuesday, 13th March 2018 in Research news

Change dominates discussion at SRUC/Teagasc Rural Futures Conference
From left: Professor Frank O’Mara (Director of Research, Teagasc), Professor Ian Boyd (second from left ) (Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)), Professor Wayne Powell (Principal and Chief Executive of SRUC), and Mr Sandy Cumming (CBE, Chairman SRUC).

Farming cannot look like it does now in one or two generations’ time.

This was the clear message from Prof Ian Boyd, DEFRA Chief Scientific Adviser, when he spoke at the SRUC/Teagasc ‘Rural Futures’ workshop in Edinburgh.

In a presentation outlining the key challenges for change in the rural sector, Prof. Boyd asserted that the key to successful transformation lies in harnessing environmental, productivity and social challenges, and feeding them into national strategy to produce effective policies.

Prof Boyd said that in his view, the Common Agricultural Policy has tried but failed in this task.

He said: “The question is can we do better? If we continue to debate this ad infinitum, without making really positive views about what we want from the environment, from productivity and from the social side of things, and understand where the trade-offs sit, we will end up back where we are now with something that looks very like the CAP.

“You could say the Common Agricultural Policy has been extraordinarily successful in driving social outcomes but it has been at the cost of productivity and environmental outcomes. The question is, can we rebalance that in some way?”

Outlining what is needed for a successful new approach, Prof Boyd cited a need for clear, balanced objectives that are consistent at all scales; transition over time to allow for social adaptation; for preparedness to make hard choices; reward for outcomes; a system of support which is sensitive to sector ambition and geography; and measures of success which reflect the policy objectives.

Prof. Boyd was one of two keynote speakers at the conference, which was jointly organised by SRUC and Teagasc to identify solutions to the common challenges facing the two countries’ rural sectors – not least Brexit.

The second keynote presentation was delivered by Dr Liz Wedderburn, Assistant Research Director at AgResearch New Zealand, who gave a valuable international perspective on change in a country where agriculture is the ‘economic engine’.

Other speakers and responders included researchers from SRUC and Teagasc, Brendan Gleeson, Assistant Secretary General at Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and David Barnes, the Scottish Government’s National Advisor on Agricultural Policy.

Click here to view the presentations

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