Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  The Clerk's letter of 17 October requested follow up information from the Secretary of State and Jim Scudamore's attendance before the Committee on 17 October. I am enclosing a copy of the Review of Progress to Date and Next Steps (Annex) on the seminars for farmers affected by FMD which gives quite a detailed account of the interest in and attendance at the seminars.

  On FMD costs the total FMD estimated expenditure is £2 billion. Actual expenditure to date is £1.6 billion. This includes payments to farmers for compensation is respect of animals slaughtered and seized/destroyed items of £1.1 billion.

23 November 2001

FMD Recovery Package

Seminars for farmers affected by FMD and the establishment of a regional contact service




  This paper summarises progress to date with regard to the delivery of seminars to farmers who have had their stock culled and the establishment of a regional contact service. The paper will:

    —  outline the background to the two initiatives and the context within which this project was announced by the Minister on 8 May;

    —  clarify the objectives of the project and the measures of success against which the project was to have been assessed;

    —  summarise the outputs of the project to date;

    —  outline the regional framework for delivering the project objectives for the remaining part of the year (up to April 2002); and

    —  identify the key "next-steps" in taking this project forward.


  1.1  The Minister announced on 8 May a range of measures to assist recovery of the farming sector in the aftermath of the foot and mouth crisis, stating that the measures, ". . . will provide high quality, targeted business and agronomic advice to help farmers consider their future options and look beyond the foot and mouth crisis. They will also help to improve marketing and market opportunities".

  1.2  He also confirmed that, "as well as helping to respond to farmers' short-term needs, they will contribute to the Government's longer-term strategy for helping UK farming to restructure in sustainable, market-oriented and environmentally responsible ways".

  1.3  The packaged announced on 8 May amounted to £15.4 million, made up of:

    —  £10.4 million for an enhanced Farm Business Advice Service (FBAS) offering up to five days free business advice for farmers whose livestock have been slaughtered under the foot and mouth control measures;

    —  £2 million in grant aid made available under a new round of the Agricultural Development Scheme, to improve marketing performance and competitiveness of sectors affected by foot and mouth; and

    —  £3 million for a targeted trade development and market campaign, made available through Food from Britain and will co-ordinate their campaign with the Countryside Agency, Meat and Livestock Commission and others with an active interest.

  1.4  As a first step the Minister announced that the Rural Development Service (RDS) would run seminars for farmers who have had their stock culled. These seminars would be held in the worst affected areas in collaboration with partner organisations, covering advice on both business and farming operational issues. The seminars would consider a range of programmes available to help farmers address business recovery either individually or in groups.

  1.5  Following on from the seminars RDS was to have established a regional contact service for farmers seeking follow up advice and help in taking ideas forward. This involved encouraging farmers to make individual use of the FBAS.

  1.6  This paper focuses on the development and delivery of seminars and the establishment of a regional contact service. Both initiatives are henceforth referred to as the project.


  2.1  The objectives for this project have been identified as:

    (i)  to re-connect with the farming community in affected areas;

    (ii)   to provide immediate short-term business assistance; and

    (iii)  to facilitate appropriate group and individual business development.

  2.2  Objectives for DEFRA/RDS in delivering its project are:

    (i)  to develop an efficient working network of stakeholders at regional level;

    (ii)   to deliver, with stakeholders, seminars in affected areas;

    (iii)  to manage with stakeholder input the operation of a regional contact service; and

    (iv)  to facilitate the development of farmer group activity.


  3.1  Measures of success in achieving these objectives, include:

    —  the number of seminars that have been delivered (against plan);

    —  the number of seminar attendees (against the target population);

    —  the number of enquiries taken for business assistance (against the target population);

    —  the number of FBAS cases commissioned as a result of the enquiries; and

    —  the numbers of farmer groups established (against current position).

  3.2  From the DEFRA/RDS perspective a further measure of success will relate to the extent of stakeholder involvement and ownership of the project. This should be gauged at a post-project forum involving all stakeholders (including farmers) where key issues and messages should be teased out. It would be appropriate to hold such a forum early in 2002.


4.1  Completed Seminars

    (i)  All of the 23 planned seminars were successfully delivered, in collaboration with stakeholders, during July and August.

    (ii)   The first seminar took place at Writtle, Essex on 3 July. The twenty-third seminar was delivered on 23 August in Gisburn, Lancashire.

    (iii)  Shown below are the seminar locations and approximate delegate numbers. Delegate numbers include the culled-out farmers attending and other interested parties present in the seminar hall.
RegionSeminar Location Date
North WestCarlisle 27 Jul110
Chelford30 July 45
Carlisle01 Aug 90
Myerscough08 Aug 55
Penrith09 Aug 50
Newby Bridge14 Aug 60
Carlisle17 Aug 150
Carlisle20 Aug 150
Gisburn23 Aug 100
North EastMorpeth 25 Jul45
Darlington31 Jul 30
Hexham02 Aug 55
Bishop Auckland08 Aug 48
South WestOkehampton 26 Jul180
Gloucester07 Aug 50
Barnstable14 Aug 230
West MidlandsHarper Adams 10 Aug65
Bromsgrove13 Aug 50
Hereford15 Aug 140
Yorks and HumberScotch Corner 26 Jul116
Skipton16 Aug 120
East MidlandsKegworth 11 Jul45
EastWrittle03 Jul 32
Approximate Total 2016

    (iv)  Outbreaks of Foot and Mouth are still occurring and it is likely that further Phase 1 seminars will be needed when conditions allow.

    (v)  the seminars were featured in local and national farming press, local radio and local television. Speeches made by RDS staff were featured as "key-note" speeches in a Farmers Weekly article put out on the DEFRA Intranet.

    (vi)  feedback from those attending the seminars and from the stakeholders involved has been very positive, with for example, a 78 per cent excellent and good rating given by farmers attending the south-west seminars;

    (vii)  the delivery of the seminars involved in a high degree of "joined-up activity" involving the establishment of regional stakeholder forums, which allowed for liaison with and co-operation between several strands of the Department, Statutory Agencies, lobby groups and NGOs;

    (viii)  a summary of some of the key roles undertaken is shown below:

      —  RDS teams managed locally and co-ordinated nationally the roll out of seminars. In addition RDS staff made presentations at the seminars on options for the future for farmers and land managers including the role of ERDP;

      —  The Government Office made presentations and presented FMD data in the context of the regional economy.

      —  The Divisional Vets presented the current FMD situation at the regional level and responded to farmers questions as to restocking strategies etc.

      —  The Small Business Service (DTI) presented the Farm Business Advice Service and explained its operation in the context of business recovery.

      —  The Meat and Livestock Commission, presented an overview of the red meat sector providing projections for supply and demand in the red meat sector over the next three years.

      —  The NFU were actively involved in the planning and delivery of the south west seminars and were present at all the other seminars in an advisory capacity.

      —  The main statutory agencies (English Nature, English Heritage, Environment Agency, Countryside Agency, Forestry Commission) had representatives at most of the seminars.

      —  The private sector made presentations across a broad range of subject areas with a focus on adding-value, farmer co-operation and marketing. Examples of private sector contributions included the Farmers First Group who outlined their successful operation, which has involved purchasing a ferry to allow Welsh lamb to be exported to France.

      —  Key Farmer influencers were chosen to chair the events.

4.2  The Contact Service

  (i)  A contact service open to all farmers (not just those culled out) has been established, staffed by experienced advisers and those with extensive agricultural knowledge. These advisers operate within regional recovery project teams. The size of these teams varies from region to region with between one to six individuals involved at any one time.

  (ii)  Phone lines for a "Business Recovery Helpline" service are now installed across all regions. All are now live and are supported by purpose designed logging software to track, monitor and record message details. The locations and numbers are shown below.
RegionLocation Recovery Helpline
South WestTaunton 0845 6015064
West MidlandsWorcester 0845 6015069
Wolverhampton0845 6015067
North WestCrewe 0845 6015053
Penrith0845 6015062
North EastNewcastle 0845 6015056
Yorks and HumberNorthallerton 0845 6015058
East MidlandsLincoln 0845 6015427
EasternCambridge 0845 6015423
South EastGuildford 0845 6001720

    (iii)  Demand is slowly building, a reflection of a new service, its introduction during a busy time of year and farmer's specific needs during the launch period.

    (iv)  To date the contact Service has fielded in excess of 1,300 calls nationally. In addition the service has made direct contact to culled out and Form `D' farmers in the East Midlands, the East and South East Regions.

    (v)  The nature of enquiries to date has been varied but this is likely to change as the service is brought to farmers attention through regional and national PR. The North East Region, for example, fielded in excess of 30 calls per day in response to a single agri-environment mailshot, demonstrating the role that the contact service can play in reaching farmers.

    (vi)  The service is currently receiving calls from farmers across all categories, ie culled out farmers, Form "D" farmers and farmers who have not been directly affected, but whose businesses have suffered indirectly;

    (vii)  Information flows to support regional recovery teams, to publicise the RDS offer and to gauge farmer needs have been developed using the following mechanisms:

      —  FMD Recovery Intranet, designed and managed by the RDS Technical Advice Unit (TAU) in Nobel House. This site holds a copy of all the presentations made at the seminars.

      —  FMD Recovery Internet site, accessible via the DEFRA website with regional tags. Those wanting to post regional information on the web can do so via the TAU.

      —  Conference Calls linking the main FMD regions are now undertaken at 9.15 am on Tuesday and Thursday. This activity is managed by the TAU in London. The issues raised during these briefings are posted later in the day on the Intranet site.

      —  The call logging software has been installed in dedicated offices and will be used to analyse enquiries when numbers are sufficiently high. This analysis will help to formulate strategy for the Helpline from early Autumn.

      —  Response cards have been used at the seminars to gauge farmer needs and to influence the design and roll-out of phase 2 seminars late this year.

      —  Business Cards providing direct contact details of the "FMD Recovery Helpline" have been produced in the key affected regions for distribution amongst farmers.

      —  A four-sided information newsletter, containing articles written by private sector consultants and advisers has been produced for posting out during September. The intended targets are those culled farmers considering future options, some of who attended the seminars. The newsletter acts as a link between the Phase 1 seminars completed in August and the Phase 2 seminars/workshop activity due to be delivered in some regions during October and November.

    (viii)  It is likely that demand for the "business helpline" service will increase through the autumn and winter months as the financial consequences of FMD on trading conditions for farmers throughout 2001 become clearer.

    (ix)  The North East Region are currently engaged in dialogue with the Regional Development Agency with regards to the feasibility of using the contact service in brokerage activity for farmers seeking forage, grazing and livestock.

    (x)   Farmer group development: 41 culled-out farmers in Wensleydale have signed up to the concept of a dedicated adviser funded by FBAS. RDS advisers are liaising with the local Business Link and the farmers on the ground to help them take their ideas forward. How the group develops will be the subject of much interest. There is enthusiasm amongst the farmers and very obvious potential for developing activity, which integrates local farm products, environmental management, tourism, group marketing and collaboration. RDS will monitor the situation and hope to use the example of the Wensleydale group as a basis for developing other groups around the county.

4.3  Stakeholder Involvement
  (i)  Stakeholder involvement has been positive and proactive and this network is something which should be built upon in the coming months. Most regions have held stakeholder debriefing meetings, and discussed future needs and planning for autumn and winter activity.

  (ii)  A meeting with MLC officers in Milton Keynes is planned for mid to late October to assess the feasibility of developing restocking models for farmers considering getting back into livestock. RDS staff are likely to be involved in the MLC Outlook Conferences due to be delivered regionally during the autumn.

  (iii)  As a result of seminar activity RDS staff have been asked to make presentations:

    —  on business recovery at the Farmers Weekly/Nat West Bank seminars being rolled out nationally from October;

    —  on engaging hill farmers on marketing issues at a major NFU training event at Stoneleigh in late September for NFU rural advisers;

    —  on integrating FMD recovery strategies with environmental objectives at the South Downs Conservation Board Conference in October;

    —  on the role of ERDP in farm recovery at the Institute of Agricultural Management Conference in Peterborough on 19 November.

4.4  Planning for Phase 2 Seminars
  (i)  It has always been the intention to follow the Phase 1 (larger) seminars by smaller themed and local events. Planning is already underway with regard to how these events will be delivered, and how they link in with other local initiatives, regional priorities and the RDS core area of work ie delivering ERDP schemes.

  (ii)  Issues of specific interest this autumn will relate to the marketing of livestock, particularly for those farms under Form "D" restrictions and the practical implications of restocking for farmers culled out.

  (iii)  As well as responding to the demand for information and training, there may well be a need to respond to demand from farmers for support for group activity.

  (iv)   Shown as an Annex to this report is an outline framework for delivery of Phase 2 activity at the regional level. This framework shows activity since the delivery of Phase 1 seminars and planned activity this Autumn.

  (v)  This framework will be used as the basis for a workshop planned for RDS staff to be held in London on 4 October.


  5.1  Where FMD conditions allow, project milestones and provisional delivery dates need to be identified and agreed at the regional level. This process needs to be embedded in the production of regional project plans, which will need to address the detail of phase 2 seminars, the continued operation of the Regional Contact Service (RCS) and the resource commitments from RDS.

  5.2  RDS staff who will be involved in the operation of the RCS and the development of seminars (three to six per region in the worst affected areas, less in the eastern regions) need to be briefed as to their remit, within the wider goals of RDS and the Department and they need to be empowered to deliver this remit.

  5.3  Stakeholders need to be kept informed at the regional and national level to ensure that the successful level of "joined-upness" evident during Phase 1 continues through Phase 2 to the completion of the project.


  6.1  The current FMD outbreak has coincided with continued downward trend in farm profitability. Feedback from the seminars and via the contact service indicates that a lot of farmers are thinking very seriously about their future options, whether to expand, contract, leave the industry or diversify. These decisions are involving the whole family.

  6.2  The prolonged nature of the disease, and its impact regionally, will see a speeding up of industry restructuring. A view for a large scale farmer in Cumbria (one of the seminar chairmen) was that 15-20 per cent of farmers may use compensation to leave the industry "with some dignity". Comment made from one of the farmers involved in the Wensleydale Group, suggest that some farmers see their future being inextricably linked to group and collaborative efforts, single operators being "too small to survive".

  6.3  At the same time regional and local stakeholders are becoming more aware of what they want out of their local agricultural industries, recognising the need to develop a more integrated approach which delivers a more sustainable, diverse and competitive sector.

  6.4  For farmers and land managers there are some tough decisions to be made. Initially objectives will have to be clarified to determine the needs of the business and the family. These objectives will need to recognise the agenda that the Government has set for its agricultural industry and the important role of second Pillar support.

  6.5  The experiences of RDS in the FMD recovery programme since May have highlighted the need for:

    —  an industry Vision, post-FMD, which farmers can aspire to;

    —  extension provision (rather than consultancy) providing farmers with basic information that can help in the change process eg adding value, conservation, collaboration etc;

    —  greater co-ordination of those who are currently providing services to rural area; and

    —  an understanding of how to access grant aid.

  6.6  RDS have a valuable role in addressing the needs outlined above.

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