RURAL leaders, from all over the world, were in Edinburgh this week to attend a four day conference of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD). This was the 11th OECD Rural Development Conference.

Enhancing Rural Innovation was the main theme and ‘the future of food’ was one of the main topics discussed.

Coming away from the event delegates were left in no doubt; farming will have to keep up with the pace of developments that are going on in other areas of business. If farming falls behind it will contribute less to the wider rural economy and hold it back, while the more condensed urban economy moves on. In simple terms, innovation must be at the heart of farming in the future to keep the workforce engaged and to ensure the success of the entire rural economy.

Sarah Allison, a member of the National Council of Rural Advisors said: “Lord Duncan’s comments on Tuesday's lunchtime session were especially pertinent to the ongoing crisis in retaining and encouraging a workforce in agriculture ‘we can't farm, if we don’t have farmers’. We need to develop the ‘pulling power’ of rural areas to encourage young people to stay- to be part of the community, to grow businesses, to care for the environment”.

However, Julian Pace, of Scottish Enterprise is confident that Scotland is delivering when it comes to innovation. He said: “Holding the conference for a second time in Scotland is recognition of Scotland's rural development activities and our approach to rural innovation. The conference highlighted that technological developments will fundamentally change the farming industry and that there is opportunity for agriculture and food industries to consistently think how to add value”.

Overall, the conference called for policy makers to be forward looking and seize the opportunities brought by innovation in rural areas.

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold nine prime heifers in Dumfries on Wednesday to a top of 226p per kg and an average of 186p.

In the rough ring 18 beef cattle sold to 164p and averaged 142.5p, while 42 dairy cows peaked at 144p and levelled at 120.6p

The firm also sold 802 prime hoggs to a top of £148.50 and 305p per kg to average 251.7p (+12p on the week).

The 233 cast sheep forward saw heavy ewes sell to £159 for a Texel and average £95.41, while light/export-type ewes peaked at £89.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £49.78.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 683 prime hoggs in Newton Stewart on Wednesday to a top of £164 and 311.8p to average 237.8p (-3.1p).

Eighty-eight heavy cast ewes sold to £164 for Texels and averaged £103.05, while 120 light ewes peaked at £114 and levelled at £63.84.