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Farm Groups: No Deal Brexit reckless in the extreme

PRESS RELEASE, 6th March 2019 from Fairness for Farmers in Europe (FFE), an open door federation of farm organisations across GB, the Isle of Man, Ireland north and south.

After their recent meeting in England, the following FFE members supported this statement: Family Farmers Association, Farmers For Action, Irish Creamery & Milk Suppliers Association, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association, Manx NFU, National Beef Association and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association.

Pictured (l-r ) at Fairness for Farmers in Europe’s recent meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Gatwick– back row  is Andrew Cooper General Secretary Manx NFU, John Enright ICMSA General Secretary, Tim Johnston Manx NFU Vice-President, Sean McAuley NIAPA & FFA and Brian Brumby Manx NFU President.  Front row, Eddie Punch General Secretary ICSA, William Taylor FFA NI and FFE co-ordinator and Patrick Kent ICSA President.

Fairness for Farmers in Europe have delivered the following press release of their agreed statement on the strong possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal to Michael Gove MP, Andrea Leadsom MP, Theresa May PM, Neil Parish MP, Sir Vince Cable MP, Sir Keir Starmer MP and Anna Soubry MP with copies sent to the Irish Government, the Isle of Man Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, Council of Ministers President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. FFE members are copying in their MEPs and politicians where appropriate.

The statement 

Fairness for Farmers in Europe (FFE) on behalf of all the family farmer members they represent across these islands, north, south, east and west, must make clear to the UK Government that it would be reckless in the extreme with the impact horrendous for agriculture and food if the UK were to crash out of the EU with no deal on 29th March.

The beef industry, to give one example across these islands is already being devastated due to uncertainty currently with price losses at the farm gate of 10%+, not to mention the add on costs to consumers from the 29th of March.  A no deal on 29th March would by way of UK and EU Customs and Excise administration costs, consequential transport waiting times and WTO tariffs where applicable on lamb, milk, milk products, chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, fruit and other at the UK Northern Irish border with the EU / Southern Ireland Border, UK Dover border point with Calais French EU border and all other food importing/exporting points around and in the UK.

For the sake of commonsense we ask you to draw back from the brink – ask for more time to achieve a successful outcome if a deal cannot be reached by 29th March. 

 

Contact: 56  Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, N Ireland, BT51 4NU

Tel. 07909744624  Email : taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

 

 

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Could British farmers build a vote-bank and influence policy?

Originally published on the FDF website

On another website, we read that in India, farmers only appear on the economic radar screen of the country when elections are around the corner (original source: Ground Reality).

Not so in UK. Whereas 43% are employed in Indian agriculture, British farmers and employees registered to vote are only 1% of the country’s population according to the World Bank’s interesting list and so are not regarded as politically significant, despite their vital role.

Is building a vote-bank the British farmers’ only chance of a fair deal?

A call, not to back a particular party or candidate but a policy such as the one set out by Farmers for Action (NI) and other farm groups (below), which commissioned the drafting of a parliamentary bill on farmgate prices. If successful it would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples. 

A vote-bank could be built by enlisting the support of the public and those who do business with dairy farmers:

  • feed mills
  • vets
  • contractors
  • hauliers
  • retailers
  • teachers
  • auctioneers
  • merchants
  • tradesmen
  • machinery suppliers 

Juliette Jowit of the Financial Times summarised: “As farm incomes fall thousands of jobs go in allied industries: vets, feed and machinery suppliers”. (Farmers suffer under the yoke of global forces, 2.5.00) 

Douglas Chalmers, when regional director for the Country Land and Business Association [North], said “Agriculture . . . supports jobs and services in the local villages and often the larger towns, especially if there is a market . . . As farming loses critical mass, all the agriculturally dependent businesses become unsustainable, and with no vets, marts, hauliers and merchants, further pressure is felt by those who have continued to farm . . .” He continues:

“We ask for a fair deal: that those who set policies and impose legislation consider the wider and real effects of their actions on individuals, farms and businesses in rural areas”. FG: 9.1.04

  • Some years ago David and Rosemary Jones of Trebersed Farm, Carmarthen, highlighted the importance of farming to the rural economy by presenting their accounts which reveal that in an eight-month period they paid 117 separate rural businesses and companies for work done or goods supplied. The yearly total is estimated at 130 suppliers. Rural economy: Farmers Guardian 19.3.99 
  • Ruth and Richard Burrows, Devonshire farmers, assembled suppliers representing 3000 others whose livelihoods depend on them and other farmers. A photograph was taken with notes giving the names and roles of the people pictured. Mrs Burrows said: “They are living proof of the importance of the spending power of the farmer and how enormously important agriculture is in terms of the entire economic structure around here. The rural communities of Britain tick over on a system of mutual dependency of which the farm often forms the hub. If it goes to the wall, dozens of ancillary trades suffer. The web of rural ruin, Richard Price, Daily Mail, 23.9.99

The problems being faced by dairy farmers do not stop at the farm gate but threaten the thousands of other business and jobs both locally and nationally.

Maintaining viable dairy farms not only protects livelihoods of farming families and others directly involved, it also makes a major contribution to local economies and the future of businesses, jobs, and families in the locality.

That is the key message from dairy farmer’s wife, Kathleen Calvert (left), who asks for a fair deal for dairy farmers who receive a significantly lower share of the retail milk price than they did ten years ago, despite considerably higher costs:

“Payment which covers production costs and overheads must be the norm for British food producers. This money will circulate around individual rural communities through the supply of professional goods and services to the prime producer, helping to provide a diverse range of other employment opportunities that support individual families within rural communities.”

Dugdale Nutrition, one of the 60 local businesses with which she trades, specialises in feeds for ruminant animals, its core market being dairy farming. This means its 49 employees and their families rely heavily in turn on local dairy farms for their livelihood. Matthew Dugdale, managing director of this company which has supplied the Calvert family for three generations, explains: “Dairy farming is like any business, needing a fair and sustainable price for its product to ensure a fair income for the long hours worked and a decent return on the often large amounts of capital employed, and very importantly, surplus profit to reinvest for the future.”

Locally based businesses circulate profits within the communities they serve. In turn they are reliant on viable, widespread and profitable farm businesses adding immense value to local economies. It is in their interests to see that farmers get a fair price for their produce.

 

 

 

 

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Stormont: reconvene and legislate on farmgate prices

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Northern Ireland Farm Groups including Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) and Farmers For Action (FFA) coming together on the issue of legislation on farm gate prices, released the following statement in August:

NI farm gate prices are by far the biggest issue for Northern Ireland farmers and the Northern Ireland economy, only followed by Brexit and the far from solved border issue for Ireland north and south.

Food Corporates and Co-op food processors face relentless farm gate price pressure actions continue to make the case for farm gate price legislation . . . It’s time for Stormont’s politicians to get back to work and prove they value Northern Ireland’s farming families and the top quality home grown food they produce, including their link to Northern Ireland’s prosperity. They must get back into Stormont and start processing the farm gate price legislation bill proposed by NI Farm Groups.

Every day Stormont doesn’t sit to act on this vital issue is costing Northern Ireland approximately £1million per day; this is made up of £280million inflation linked per annum on rural welfare support and jobs, according to the Gosling Report.  

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Farmers For Action have now issued a message to dairy farmers considering term contracts for a large or small portion of their milk, summarised here:

William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator, states that “Across the main news we now find that the large food corporates are seeking to Brexit-proof food prices – roughly translated Brexit-proof their profits – and hold off their competition. How can it be right for dairy farmers or any other farmers to sign contracts that are grossly under the cost of production and not inflation linked, merely to facilitate food corporate profit taking.” He continues:

“Co-ops are going out and taking the business from the large food retailers and food wholesalers on mainly the lowest price basis to eliminate competition, then come back to the farmer for their profit . . .  This has to be wrong, in that it will never return sufficient money to the farmer members of any co-op.

“The job of a CEO of a dairy co-op is to employ good salesmen and implement a policy of selling a quality product time after time, build up a reputation for dependability and above all know when the market is saturated and when it is not, as is currently the case, and use this to advantage – always have a selling edge and always look for new outlets . . .

“Above all, in order to earn any credibility from their farmer member-owners, good co-ops should be able to sell milk above the price of bottled water and never be a bargain basement seller”.

Points to remember:

  • any contracts being currently touted in Northern Ireland must be checked legally; sign nothing without good legal advice.
  • remember, the true cost of production ‘without profit’ repeatedly coming back from Europe’s most efficient producers via European Milk Board is just over 40p/l.

William Taylor concluded, “Consider carefully before you sign your family into possible debt for the sake of food corporate and co-op profits with non-inflation linked under-the-cost-of-production contracts.

Legislation on farmgate prices across the staples is ultimately the answer and we are making progress!”

William Taylor

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624

Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

The full text of both messages will be emailed to anyone who would like to learn more – just ask using the comments mechanism.

 

 

 

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Media 73: “Why has the BBC focussed on past tensions and scandals in NI election coverage?”

Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers For Action ask why the BBC ignores constructive legislation proposals – is their sole aim to gain ratings?

They point out that the BBC should be playing its part in informing its viewers and listeners and questioning the politicians ahead of the election on what could be the biggest ever turnaround in prosperity for Northern Ireland.

One such proposal for Stormont on farm gate prices for staples would return to Northern Ireland farmers a minimum of the cost of production inflation-linked plus a margin which would lead to an estimated 20,000 jobs+ across Northern Ireland and an annual welfare saving of £280million+, much needed by the NHS, but to no avail so far.

wt4A copy of the leaflets being handed out may be seen here or by scrolling down

In the run to last year’s election and again this year NI farm groups tried to get the BBC to report the proposal with no success.

As a result the committees of both NIAPA and FFA have concluded that whilst the vast majority of political parties and independents are very supportive of this idea, rather than play their part in trying to build a prosperous future for all in Northern Ireland the BBC would rather ignore the fact that the foundations of its largest industry are crumbling and just hype up NI tensions of the past and exaggerate scandals to gain ratings.

The food supply across the world versus an increasing population is dwindling, yet NI is well placed to have a buoyant food industry. However that position is fading along with the 4-7 jobs down the line that every person working on a farm creates.  In fact, the situation is so serious that 25% of farming families are living below the poverty line and can ill afford the license fee due to the majority receiving little over half the cost of production for their produce.

The BBC is a cost to everyone in NI and has a duty to report the news good and bad: what it does not have is a licence to manipulate the news at election time to suit the ratings.

Rural poverty is on the increase and seriously impacting virtually the whole of Northern Ireland according to the recent Rural Support Report and The Gosling Report. Both reports tell how bad the situation is but go on to explain how good it could be if Stormont would implement legislation on farm gate prices.

Have the BBC lost touch of what really matters?

 

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 For more information, contact William Taylor, NI Farm Groups

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624  Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

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Producing enough home-grown food is an essential component of our national security

1 dgc 4 march

The Telegraph reported that in March more than 1,000 farmers travelled to London to urge the Government to do more to help Britain’s struggling farmers. Coachloads of protesters arrived in Westminster to take part in a march organised by campaign group Farmers for Action. The organisation says it wants the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to recognise that there is “a major problem” in one of Britain’s oldest industries.

“We can produce the best food you can buy. But we have to be able to make a profit.  Currently that is not the case”.

David Handley, a dairy farmer in Monmouth South Wales who organised the protest, said: “We keep getting soundbites from ministers, saying they’re listening and have a 25-year strategy plan. But the majority of farmers here today want to know how they will get through the next 12 months. Falling prices across the industry are making production unsustainable. People cannot take this any longer”.

1 dgc head 2See the video, fronted by BBC Midlands Today news correspondent David Gregory-Kumar (left).

Low wholesale prices for goods including milk and cereal have caused income to plummet for many farmers across the UK. Growing competition from global markets and increasingly fierce supermarket price wars have intensified the problems.

In The Times, David Handley (Farmers for Action, below right) stressed that all sectors of the farming industry are under severe financial pressure and many are not even covering their costs of production and that this cannot be allowed to continue:

“The government shows no appetite to sort this out, merely issuing the occasional soundbite. When an industry gets in such a crisis we feel our government should lead from the front. We are not looking for handouts, but we need some answers.

david handley 5 (2)“Do they want us to work in a free market, which is not operating a level playing field and the weakest producers keep going to the wall? Or do they really want British farmers to feed British people and also sell our products on the global stage – which would boost the productivity of our industry and also increase funds to the Treasury?

“If the answer is that we are to work in a free market, with no protection whatsoever from importation of products which do not meet our standards, then Mr Cameron has a moral obligation to tell the industry that this  is the path he wishes to take and therefore farmers will be able to make a decision about their futures.

“If the answer is that he wants British farmers to feed British people, then he has to answer a number of questions:

  • Is he going to provide a level playing field?
  • Is he going to give all the tools necessary to play on the global stage?

If the answers are yes to the above then he has an obligation to step forward with a strategy that clearly tells British farmers it will be profitable for them”.

In a comment on this article, Phillip Cozens summarised:

The government presides over a situation in which last year we imported 70% of the food consumed in the UK. This is utter madness, strategically, environmentally, economically. Support for indigenous food production, with the realistic potential to be self sufficient, if the need arises, should again be a national priority. This is probably more important for our security than having a nuclear deterrent.

Farmgate price: food producers unite to brief politicians before the May election

The next election to the Northern Ireland Assembly will be held on 5th May 2016 and Northern Ireland Farm Groups – Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers – have already begun to lobby all the political parties and Independents in the wake of the report by economist Paul Gosling which makes the case for legislation on farm gate prices by Stormont.

The Gosling Report clearly states the prosperity, jobs and welfare savings that legislation on farmgate prices would create for Northern Ireland.

ffa niapa stormont

John McCallister MLA and farmer (below left), who met a delegation from FFA and NIAPA at Stormont (above) earlier this week. Poor returns at the farm gate is a subject very close to Mr McCallister’s heart.

John McCallister MLAHe was intrigued to see the mechanics of the legislation on farm gate prices and how it would work. A detailed discussion was had by all with Mr McCallister insisting that we keep him posted at every turn. He left to fully digest everything he had received and will consider its place in his manifesto.

Michael Clark, Chairman of NIAPA comments: “The legislation proposal, if enacted after the election, would return Northern Ireland’s family farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce across the staples providing a financial safety net with prosperity for all across Northern Ireland as a net result”.

Contact FFA’s William Taylor

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

Retailers in Corner on Climate Change

world climate conf paris

The World Climate Change Conference in Paris is under way, attended by over 150 countries. In a message received today, from William Taylor, co-ordinator of Farmers for Action, Northern Ireland (second left, meeting on farmgate prices) writes:

WT farmgate pricesThis has brought into sharp focus just where our world is with industrial pollution, food production and its value and the value of farmers.

According to Sir David Attenborough, Barack Obama and others there is still time to fix this, but only just and we must act now for the sake of our children and future generations!

Now we have the corporates, food wholesalers, retailers and processors in a corner.

How can they mention the word ‘green’ yet import New Zealand lamb during 2015 when there is plenty already here, purely for profit and to play off New Zealand farmers against UK farmers and vice versa. (Ed: see MP Caroline Lucas’: Stopping the great food swap: Relocalising Europe’s food supply).

How can they import beef even from Poland when there is plenty here already and so the list goes on – but no longer! FFA intend to hold the corporates and Westminster Government to account on their carbon foot print at every turn by exposing their green credentials for the pharisees that they currently are.

Furthermore, FFA would warn the Government about pointing the finger at livestock methane emissions (which are being improved on) which disperse in 20 years – while the corporate food world plays fast and loose with carbon footprints and the resulting CO2 emissions that take 200 years to disperse, purely for profit, with the Government’s blessing, while UK farmers go broke.

FFA are calling for the Westminster Government to introduce the pre-EU Isle of Man system, where regional produce, which must come from the nearest source, must all be used first and foremost before any is imported.

US cannot turn up at a climate change conference in Paris in full support and then agree to have the same food – eg beef – sailing to the US whilst another ship sails to the UK with the same cargo. This is but one example of the double standards of the UK Government and Europe on climate change that FFA are not prepared to tolerate!

Farmers For Action

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624

Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

‘Smoke and mirrors’: the true picture for British farming prospects distorted as electioneering intensifies

As ministers trumpet the great export potential of British produce, official records are hard to come by. The link to the November Commons EFRA debate does not open and the publication link [below] also does not respond:

handley efraIs this because the true picture  doesn’t sit well with electioneering?

The outlook is bleak for British farmers who don’t have the largest holdings, and who produce perishable foods which can’t be stored until prices rise.

However, thanks to the farming press and correspondence from a dairy farmer, some information is available – and significant.

It is reported that the dairy sector is in a desperate state. MPs have been told that farmers are being paid less for milk than the cost of production. Over four hundred milk producers quit the business in 2014, compared with 200 in 2013.

ffa efra videoGiving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee – 25/11/14 – the chairman of Farmers For Action, David Handley, said:

“The situation is getting so serious that in the last nine weeks we’ve passed three individual dairy producers on to the Samaritans because they were in such a desperate state and the full impact isn’t yet being seen.”

A link to the video on FFA’s website has been received; to open this go to http://www.farmersforaction.org/8.html

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, whose critique of government’s Groceries Code Adjudication process is well worth reading, commented: “This is a horrendous time… We are losing family farming. We have valleys which have had 20 dairy farmers where we have none any more.”

The committee heard that the supply chain needed to be subject to greater scrutiny.

food supply chain diagram

Mr Handley said that the money between the processor and retailer needed to be tracked: “We need to have some honesty and transparency. There is far too much smoke and mirrors. Unless we get proof that global markets are affecting the domestic price then we will continue to blockade”.

george dunn2Is the idea that the prices of milk in the supermarket would rise a ploy to antagonise the public?

Mr Dunn [right] explains: “The question we have been asking is, ‘Where does the money go?’ We might not need to have a higher price, just that we need a fairer share of the market.”

Mr Handley disputed claims that the price cuts were down to global markets, saying: “We find it very suspicious when we are being told that it is [due to] oversupply when 85% of our milk never leaves these shores.”

Scottish independence campaign: FFA to ask all politicians if they will legislate on farm gate prices

Press release from William Taylor, Farmers For Action UK NI co-ordinator:

ffa header 2

Rural dwellers in Scotland have a golden opportunity to settle the debate on independence: they should immediately put the case to the Scottish National Party and to the Westminster government for safety-net legislation on farm gate prices and see what the politicians are made of, then vote accordingly.

A project campaigning for legislation on farm gate prices for staples

12 months ago in Northern Ireland, FFA put the case for legislation on farmgate prices for all the staples that would provide a safety net giving farmers a minimum of the true cost of production plus a margin inflation linked return minimum. If the market prices go higher NI farmers would receive such prices, but when prices fall they could only legally come down to the safety-net price of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked.

In Northern Ireland four farm organisations, including Northern Ireland Livestock Auctioneer Associations, are now working equally with Farmers For Action on the project with the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister and the Agriculture Committee at Stormont.   The icing on the cake for the Northern Ireland politicians who see the legislation through is the creation of 25,000 jobs immediately, which equates to a minimum of one professional job for every farm in Northern Ireland, only to be followed by thousands more good quality permanent jobs throughout agriculture and its suppliers. In Scotland this would equate initially to 53,000 jobs.

 The facts:

  1. 25% of UK family farmers are living below the poverty line (welfare overrides the legislation being anti competitive);
  2. the price of beef is in free fall along with virtually every other commodity needing a huge lift to even reach the true cost of production, eg milk 42p/l, beef £5.15 per kg, lamb £5.15 per kg, potatoes £175 per tonne;
  3. grain and oil seeds are one of the few exceptions, in that world market shortages due to bio fuel use is keeping the price currently just about cost of production but usually over and above.

With family farmers standing no chance of getting a fair price against the likes of Tesco or corporate processors, it’s time for the politicians who put Scotland before themselves to stand forward and do what Roosevelt did in the US 30s depression; he couldn’t get the US out of recession until he put money in farmers’ pockets. Farmers with money in their pockets purchase from approximately 123 other businesses and create employment, they cannot currently reinvest and continue producing food whilst losing money.

So come on Scotland! Put the case to the politicians, let’s end 21st century rural poverty together by making the politicians pull their weight and earn their keep. Now is your golden opportunity to turn the debate back to the politicians and ask if they are prepared to legislate on farm gate prices so that rural dwellers are properly rewarded for their work as the Lisbon Treaty states, or if they will turn their backs on 53,000 Scottish jobs by putting corporate greed first, yet again!

Farmers For Action

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, Co L’derry, N Ireland, BT51 4NU

Tel/Fax 028 703 43419 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

A farmer’s question: will the Westminster government introduce food labelling legislation against the wishes of their ‘friends’ in the retail trade?

farmers for action header 

FFA header

Farmers For Action UK (Northern Ireland) have written to Northern Ireland’s First Minister and Deputy First Minister asking them to join forces with the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments and call on the Westminster government to introduce tough new food processing and labelling laws immediately, as advised by the Food Standards Agency.

William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator, stated: “it is obvious from a statement made by Owen Paterson, Minister of the Environment earlier this week after he met with retailers that the Westminster government has no intention of introducing legislation that would hurt their ‘friends’ in the retail trade.

“First the banks cheated on our trust and the last Westminster government decided without our permission that our money must bail them out and still they cheat – but worst of all the current government shows no sign of adding tough new laws to stop rogue large supermarkets, large food wholesalers and large food processors feeding us and our children and hospital patients horsemeat or horse offal.  To add insult to injury the Chairman and Chief Executive of Iceland has the cheek to virtually deny that horsemeat or offal was ever present in some of the leading supermarkets including his own.”

Rogue corporate greed

Mr Taylor went on, “Enough is enough of rogue corporate greed demanding food to be supplied below the cost of production.  Meanwhile, consumers our customers including children and patients unknowingly get fed horsemeat or offal and perhaps more. 

“UK farmers supply top quality fully traceable red meat yet are forced to sell it and most other commodities at prices needing at least a 35% increase to even reach the cost of production to these same greedy corporates, who then introduced dubious meat products behind closed doors to artificially keep down farm gate red meat prices whilst underpinning their profits. 

“Let this be a warning to government: food has a cost and family farmers across the UK are financially on their knees due to rogue corporate behaviour, currently many farmers can not afford to feed the people any more!

“Corporate food profit taking and cheating has gone too far, consumers and farmers are now on the war path.  This time we the voters want immediate government action, our lives and our children’s lives and our livelihoods depends on it – no action – no votes!”

William Taylor: 56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, Co L’derry, N Ireland, BT51 4NU
Tel/Fax  028 703 43419  Email  taylor.w@btconnect.com