CAP Reform and FCN ~ Rural Affairs with Dagmar Winter


Farming Community Network (FCN) Northern Regional Conference at Whalley Abbey, Clitheroe, 4 – 5 September 2014.

For its Northern Regional Conference, FCN coordinators, chaplains and volunteers from Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Northumberland met for two days at Blackburn Diocesan Retreat House, Whalley Abbey. Led by Regional Director Richard Betton (Teesdale), it was good to meet with the national staff, especially CEO Charles Smith, and the Development Officer Matt Caldicott.

Charles Smith CEO, and Simon Lloyd, Northumberland Coordinator

Charles Smith CEO, and Simon Lloyd,     
Northumberland Coordinator


Peering into the future at Whalley Abbey

Peering into the future at Whalley Abbey      






I was only able to attend the first day which included an important briefing and update on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform. While regulations have been published, a lot of interpretation of what it actually means and regulatory tidying up of second order issues is still to do. It is a matter of urgency that the new regulations be clear enough to enable farmers to sort out their cropping plan for next year.

The new system for payments will be digital by default, in line with the cross-government digital agenda, and it will be a challenge to support the 30,000 farmers nationally who so far have not interacted with Defra online. It is fair to say that despite more careful planning, the new system will undoubtedly have some teething problems. However, eventually it should really be better than what we've had before.

Charles Smith, CEO, gave us a helpful overview of the casework of FCN in 2013/14. We started the year with snow-related problems and ended it supporting those impacted by flooding. There were reported 1,058 cases involving 2,337 people. 60% of all cases were financial issues, up 20% on the previous year and farm debt is spirally upward worryingly.

On a more positive note, bureaucracy-related issues were much reduced at 21% and while it is likely that problems will be ahead (CAP Reform), FCN's stronger relationship forged with the Rural Payments Agency should prove invaluable in dealing with these.

Mental health issues, especially depression, are acknowledged in almost 30% of cases, and the real figure is likely to be higher. If only we could reduce the stigma still attached to this health problem!

Nationally, there are 33 FCN county groups with over 350 volunteers (including people helping with fundraising, publicity etc) and 22,147 hours of reported volunteer activity.

In addition to the telephone helpline 0845 367 9990 there is now also an email helpline: for those who prefer to write.

FCN remains dependent on donations and your continued support with collections at Harvest, Rogation etc is much appreciated.



The conference included worship and here is the version of the Lord's Prayer we prayed (you can find it in the Church of England's Patterns for Worship), bearing in mind the farming community in particular.

Our Father in heaven,
through our love of the countryside,
through our care for animals,
through our respect for property and tools:

hallowed be your name.
On our farms and in our homes, in our training colleges and schools,
where machinery is made, and where policy is planned:

your kingdom come.
By seeking your guidance,
by keeping your commandments,
by our living true to our consciences:

your will be done.
For the millions who live in poverty and hunger,
for our own needs, and the requirements of our neighbours,
by co-operation, sympathy and generosity

give us today our daily bread.
Because we have broken your commandments,
doing what we ought not to do and neglecting what we ought to do

forgive us our sins.
If any have injured us by injustice, double dealing or exploitation:

we forgive those who sin against us.
When prosperity lulls us to false security or hard times prompt us to despair,
when success makes us boastful or failure makes us bitter:

lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
In the assurance of faith, in the confidence of hope, in the will to serve,
help us to love Christ as Lord, and our neighbour as ourselves:

for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.



Go to Rural pages




View the news archive