Hinterland - 27 September 2021

In Hinterland this week - food shortages, farm security, digital connectivity closing the gap, controversial street lights and finally the big bad rewilded wolf…

*         *          *

U.K. to Probe Extent of Country’s Food Supply-Chain Woes

This extract from Blomberg gives a flavour of how a key rural story is being reported in the US. Sometimes its interesting to look through a different organisation’s eyes to get a challenging or re-affirming perspective.  This article gives us a useful flavour of the agenda for the upcoming food inquiry it tells us:

The U.K. government is starting an investigation into just how badly labor shortages, Brexit and surging commodity prices are hurting the country’s food industry.

A lack of key workers such as truck drivers is pushing businesses toward losses and causing knock-on issues for consumers, said Neil Parish, chair of the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. In a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, he highlighted livestock stuck on farms due to meat-processing bottlenecks and lower chicken production closing some food outlets.

The committee set an initial Oct. 8 deadline for its inquiry and is seeking insight into issues including:

The outlook for labor shortages in the coming months and years.

What impact a timetable for physical checks at the border on food and live animal imports from the EU will have on current supply-chain problems.

Whether the government needs to take more action to support the food supply chain.


Food firms warn of panic-buying this Christmas

Probably best not to speculate how this happened for fear of raising the ire of some sections of the rural establishment….This story tells us:

Food industry bodies have warned of panic-buying this Christmas unless action is taken to address labour shortages.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) called for an emergency visa to allow firms to recruit from outside the UK.

UK farmers, hauliers and shops have been struggling with shortages that have been made worse by Covid and Brexit.

The government said that the UK has a "highly resilient food supply chain".

The head of the NFU, Minette Batters, wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday warning that the food and farming sector is on a "knife edge" due to a shortage of workers across the entire supply chain.

The letter, signed on behalf of a number of food and drink trade bodies, urged the government to introduce a Covid-19 recovery visa to open up new recruitment opportunities as a matter of urgency.

"Without it, more shelves will go empty and consumers will panic buy to try to get through the winter," Ms Batters wrote.

"That is why we must have an urgent commitment from you to enable the industry to recruit from outside the UK over the next 12 months to get us through the winter and to help us save Christmas."


Farmer sets up Livestock Lookout text alert system

This is a most innovative approach to one of the key challenges facing farmers and signals the ongoing innovation we have come to expect from the most long sighted members of the farming community. It tells us:

A text alert system to warn farmers about livestock in danger has been developed.

Farmer Tim Rogers set up the Livestock Lookout system on the Isle of Wight after cattle escaped on his land.

The technology, being offered to farms across the UK, lets passers-by warn farmers if livestock is the loose or distressed.

Mr Rogers said it was an "effective early warning system" for the rural community.

He came up with the idea after cows escaped from a field on his land, knocked someone over and damaged a car.

He said he only found out when concerned passers-by posted about it on social media but had no way of informing him.

Putting up a sign with his mobile number only encouraged nuisance calls, he added.

Instead, he used intelligent technology to allow farmers to be contacted quickly but anonymously.

Farmers display a sign with a central text number and a unique location number.

The farmer then receives an text, via a central exchange directory, to alert them to any incidents, while the system gathers more information from the informant


Urban and rural digital connectivity gap begins to narrow

I am sure this article speaks the truth but I’m with the CLA on the fact that things still don’t feel too good. Read below:

The gap between urban and rural broadband performance is narrowing, according to a new study by Ofcom, but campaigners say this is 'just the start' after years of poor connectivity.

Data shows that the 9% difference between the proportion of urban (74%) and rural (65%) home broadband lines, with an average evening peak-time speed of 30 Mbit/s or higher in March 2021, was lower than the 12% difference recorded in November 2019.

This comes as the availability and take-up of superfast, ultrafast and gigabit services have increased in rural areas of the country.

However, the difference between the March 2021 proportions of urban (5%) and rural (17%) broadband lines, with an average 8-10pm peak-time actual download speed of less than 10 Mbit/s (12pp), was unchanged since November 2019, when the respective urban and rural figures were 10% and 22%.

Although the difference between average urban and rural peak-time download speeds is declining, average peak-time download speeds in urban areas (55.1 Mbit/s) were still a third higher than those in rural areas (41.3 Mbit/s) in March 2021.

While the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) welcomed the figures as a step in the right direction, it warned the rural economy was still being held back by poor broadband.


Climate change: Lord Deben says street lights not needed in rural areas

I have found the issue of dark skies in rural settings surprisingly, perhaps even un-nervably controversial. This story tells us:

Street lights should not be installed in rural areas where people could use a torch instead, an influential climate adviser said.

Lord Deben chairs the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on emissions targets.

He also said councils should not allow housing developments where residents would commute by car.

Lord Deben said local authorities "must be looking at everything they do" to tackle climate change.

Giving evidence to Parliament's Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Lord Deben said: "The pressures to urbanise the countryside are largely antagonistic to dealing with climate change."

He said street lighting in rural areas was unnecessary, adding: "When people move into the countryside you just have to say to them, 'this is not the town, we do not have street lighting in this village, you have a torch, that's just how we do it'."

But Lord Deben, who was environment minister under John Major and Suffolk Coastal MP until 2010, said street lighting was important in towns where it can make people feel safer and more likely to walk.


And Finally

Reintroducing wolves to UK could hit rewilding support, expert says

This story shows just how “wild” the whole re-wilding agenda is getting. Ive been collecting stories in And Finally for a decade about weird charismatic mega fauna but this whole agenda is starting to get a bit out of control now. Anyone for releasing alligators into the Chesterfield Canal…?????

Demands to reintroduce predators such as wolves and bears could significantly damage public support for rewilding the British countryside, a senior conservationist has said.

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of NatureScot, a government conservation agency, said rewilding could only succeed if it won support from people living in and managing the countryside, including farmers and Highland estate managers who are worried about losing their livelihoods.

She said focusing on totemic predators such as wolves risked alienating the people living in rural areas whose involvement is essential if the large-scale restoration programmes needed to address the climate and nature emergencies were to succeed.

Osowska said: “We need to think about rewilding as a much broader concept. We need to think about restoring all of nature, not just large mammals. And that goes from the pine hoverfly to ensuring that we’ve the right mix of forestry – different land types to have that mosaic of habitats.

“The vision I want is of a nature-rich future. Nature-rich means we’re all touched by and living in harmony with nature and able to benefit from it.”


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.