………………………………………………………………………………… This blog follows our recent book of the same title published by Routledge. Rurality is interpreted in many ways depending on individual encounters with rural space. Debate should not be restricted to the pages of the book so please join in here.

Saline Agriculture Update


Firstly, thanks to our partners at the Waddenacademie for all of their efforts in getting our Interreg project proposal through to the second stage.  If successful, this will see new test sites for salt-tolerant crops extended across the North Sea Region of Europe and additional research to explore the economic potential of yields and marketing approaches linked to the new crop varieties.  We look forward to continued collaboration over the coming months… and hopefully beyond!

Meanwhile, our new Research Fellow, Zhongwei Xing has joined us in Lincoln International Business School to work on new economic modelling of the risks to the agriculture sector associated with potential increases in salinity of low-lying farmland.  Having previously studied at Lincoln University (New Zealand) he is already feeling at home in his new city!!

 

A new Rural Policy for England and Wales?


As politicians and civil servants begin to think about the future outside of the EU, this is an important time to capitalise on the national level of political engagement and encourage new ideas that can push the UK ahead of the rest of Europe. That way we can continue to be influential on a global scale by setting the examples that others will want to follow.

In terms of rural policy, agriculture outside of the CAP will undoubtedly face challenges but equally it can free up entrepreneurial farmers to react to the market rather than to policy changes.  We need the leading agricultural and trade economists to inform policy that gives the agriculture sector fair chances in the global markets but we cannot rely on the same level of expenditure that CAP provided.

In my field of rural development, policies such as LEADER have operated with much smaller budgets but with many procedural limitations.  This provides new opportunities to think about how this money is used to promote business and communities to thrive in our rural areas.  Public investment should focus on innovations of all kinds – and ones that will give new futures to businesses and community organisations.  We cannot afford to prop up failing businesses but we can use a range of initiatives to help ambitious enterprises to innovate – whether that is soft loans to invest in new technology, training programmes and networks to raise the profile and skills levels of rural economies or infrastructure links to provide a more level playing field.

For communities, we must not forget rural poverty and inequalities but we also face new challenges of service provision in an era of austerity and ageing rural populations.  How can businesses capitalise on new opportunities? How can rural places benefit from wider mobility and the connections that people further afield retain to rural places?  Why can’t we have a platform that allows crowd funding of village services to provide a kick-back to investors – whether that’s a free Sunday lunch in the pub or a vote on the type of swing that is bought for the playground?  This feels more democratic that the Parish Council precept model as people could buy into the services and facilities that they care about – and people who don’t live in the village could also participate.

Over the coming months, I look forward to working with a number of colleagues working on rural research from the Universities of Kent, Sussex, Exeter and Warwick to provide the baseline information and to come up with new ideas and approaches as we move into a new era of rural policy for the UK.

Cork Declaration 2.0 – A better life in rural areas


Having digested the content in more detail, it is pleasing to see some that there is an emerging sense of the need for a shift in European rural policy.  The first Cork Declaration was a major step towards the inclusion of broader rural development policies alongside direct agricultural support.  The new Declaration firmly embraces all types of economic activities in rural areas within its remit.

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/events/2016/rural-development/cork-declaration-2-0_en.pdf

The need to bridge the digital divide, although not a headline, emerges clearly in the detail.  So to does the significance of urban-rural interdependence.  Rural places are increasingly connected through social and economic links to urban centres and beyond.  The implications for how we conceive of rural places and rural economies within diverse value chains and diverse social networks need greater attention but the fact that rural quality of life is clearly recognised in relation to economic outcomes is to be applauded.

I am sceptical about whether rural proofing can effectively be applied across Europe (it was hard enough in the UK) but any steps to bring rural areas to the attention of other policy departments is very much welcomed.  After all, it is the core services of education and health that make as much difference as any specifically “rural” policy in Europe’s more peripheral areas.

If/when the UK leaves the EU, this document can also provide a valuable reference point for DEFRA to think about how to tackle rural issues outside of the CAP.

Cork Declaration


First sight of the headline issues. Shame that identity and distinctiveness of rural places are not in the headlines. Boroadband/digital connectivity still missing too… Seems that these as just aspirations that EU or National policies cannot deliver in a tangible or measureable way

 

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New Cork Declaration on Rural Development


Just attending the announcement…more to follow soon.

With Carmen Hubbard, Newcastle University, one of the drafters of the Declaration

With Carmen Hubbard, Newcastle University, one of the drafters of the Declaration