NFU Scotland’s President Andrew McCornick has used Scotland’s biggest one-day agricultural event to call for politicians across all parliaments to focus on the long-term future of the sector.
Speaking at AgriScot, staged at Ingliston near Edinburgh, Mr McCornick said Brexit was a wake-up call and an opportunity to do better, but the measure of its success would be measured in farm incomes.
He called on politicians in all parliaments to put aside short-term fixes and focus on a long-term view of policy and support to allow farmers and crofters to plan.
Sharing a platform at AgriScot with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, Mr McCornick said: “All parts of Scottish farming, food and drink want a profitable, sustainable future through and beyond Brexit.
“Scotland’s farmers and crofters work in scales of production that are measured in years, so we need to move away from short-term fixes. A long-term view of policy and support is essential to allow all parts of our industry to make decisions. We are the cornerstone of a food and drink sector looking to double in size by 2030 – that ambition will only be realised if we grow our agricultural output.
“To deliver on the right policies for Scotland, all politicians in all parliaments need to show genuine commitment to work together to secure the future for our industry, our environment and our rural economy. The measure of success will be judged in farmers’ and crofters’ incomes. These need to be improved now and beyond the Brexit process to allow us to invest in our businesses and deliver food, landscapes, jobs, environmental benefits and a thriving rural economy.
“Brexit is the wake-up call and the opportunity to change and do better.
“Since the day of the EU referendum, we have been on the front foot engaging with our members and lobbying politicians. We quickly established our priorities and principles around policy, support, trade and labour and taken the lead.
“We are halfway through a series of roadshows from Shetland to the Borders where the turnout of members has been exceptional, helping us shape how we want the industry to look in the future. There is a willingness to accept there will be change.”
In his speech, Mr McCornick highlighted recent lobbying successes for the Union including the timely delivery of the support scheme loans last month; recognition of the weather impact on the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme deadlines; derogations on slurry-spreading for those farming in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones and hard-won changes to Greening rules.
He added: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters face the massive challenge of a very high cost winter because of an exceptionally wet summer and autumn across much of Scotland.
“The Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to creating a Weather Advisory Panel in Scotland gives us an opportunity to react in smarter ways to our ever-changing weather. We must learn from events like the extreme flooding in early 2016 as well as the summer of 2017 where it wasn’t the high rainfall that did the damage but the lack of dry days when silage, harvest, slurry-spreading or ploughing could be completed.
“While we can do nothing about the weather, a panel that can quickly analyse and assess emerging weather events and take action based on experience and best practice will help strengthen the resolve and resilience of Scotland’s farmers and crofters.” Ends