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2013 Conference to explore farming's contribution to UK society

6th August 2012 @ 3:15PM

UK farming delivers great benefit to wider society. That is the belief of The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC), and a newly commissioned project plans to discover what these contributions are and assess their value. The research commissioned for the next Oxford Farming Conference will be presented to delegates at the annual gathering in Oxford, which runs from 2-4 January 2013.

The research will draw on a wide range of evidence in order to identify and evaluate the full range of environmental and social values that farming delivers to the population.

The project is being undertaken by Dr Peter Carruthers of Vision 37 Ltd (and Honorary University Fellow, University of Exeter & Honorary Senior Fellow, University of Worcester) and Professor Michael Winter,  Professor & Director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter. The research has been co-sponsored by Burges Salmon, The RSPB and Volac.

"This will be a seminal piece of work that will try to determine farming's value to society beyond its contribution to the country's GDP and employment figures," states OFC Chairman Mike Gooding. "Farming provides a host of societal benefits some of which are well acknowledged like flood defence, landscapes, carbon storage and air quality. In this regard a number of attempts have already been made to calculate UK farming's measureable impacts on soil, air and water."

But he suggests that the environmental balance sheet is only part of the story.

"What is less well documented is the boost to people's well-being that is delivered by their association with the countryside and farming - whether that be from a walk in the countryside, a convalescent's view over green fields from their hospital bed or a family spending an afternoon with a picnic on the South Downs. What this research seeks to do is to tie together all of these deliverables to give an all-encompassing value to society."

Darren Moorcroft, RSPB's Head of Species & Habitat Conservation and research co-sponsor said: "this research will highlight the true value of agriculture, and help to piece together the jigsaw of effects it has on the things that matter to society, including food, wildlife, community, water and landscapes.  It can help us all maximise the benefits to society and rise to the challenges to reduce any negative impacts."

William Neville of Burges Salmon added: "Living in a small densely populated island, the competing demands on farmland are enormous and central to using this valuable finite resource wisely is a proper understanding of its value. This research could hardly be more timely."

Andy Richardson from research co-sponsor Volac added: "Volac is delighted to again support the OFC research. An important part of this strategy for global food security will be a balanced consideration of the positive and negative impacts of farming across the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental. The 2013 OFC research will be a valuable insight in this respect. We need to start thinking seriously about our strategy for exactly what food we produce and where we produce it. The challenge for us all is to join up the plethora of initiatives and reports into tangible, focused and easily understood objectives and actions which is the aim of this research."

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