NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy used the Union’s autumn conference as a platform to call on the Scottish Government to focus on the agricultural industry’s priorities if it is to meet the nation’s ambitions on climate change, biodiversity and rural communities.
Speaking at the event in Dunfermline, Mr Kennedy highlighted that the Union’s eight key policy priorities on behalf of its 9000 members are: future funding; rural economy; better regulation; public engagement; fairer supply chains; effective conservation; climate change and optimal land use.
Mr Kennedy said, “If we get all these priorities right, then not only will Scottish farming and crofting be in a better place, but Scottish Government will be much better placed to meet its own targets.
“It is in the nation’s best interests that we deliver the correct policy and regulation as that will deliver a sustainable and profitable future for Scottish agriculture and Scotland’s ambitions on climate change, biodiversity and vibrant rural communities.
“I understand the frustration that is growing amongst farmers and crofters desperate to know what that future policy will look like. Many people ask us what is coming down the track. As farmers and crofters, we know we are going to be asked to do more but the details are only just emerging.
“That is the very reason we remain engaged with government, to make sure we influence the decisions being made and that we avoid a cliff edge situation when we move to a new agricultural policy.
Commenting further on the recently published Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill, beginning its passage through Scottish Parliament, Mr Kennedy said, “This isn’t just an Agriculture Bill; it is also about rural communities. My thought on that is if you want vibrant rural communities, you must have a vibrant farming and crofting sector. I am delighted to see the reference to rural communities on the face of this bill.
“We must also remember that this is a framework bill that enables powers to be flexible enough to adapt to any situation at any given time. Given the current global scene, that flexibility must remain to allow an even greater focus on food production where this is deemed necessary. We must ensure that the broad spectrum that the bill covers is not derailed in any way and that the focus is food production.
“We often talk about our industry’s ability to adapt, but it shouldn’t only be farmers and crofters that adapt to the current situation. Scottish Government must adapt and listen to those who know, through generations of experience, how our rural communities, landscape and environment ticks.
“A sustainable and profitable agricultural industry is key to Scotland’s ambitions, an issue we discussed in detail with the First Minister Humza Yousaf MSP this week, and having the appropriate powers in place to deliver the necessary level of support is a crucial factor in that.
“On funding, it is absolutely essential that we continue to lobby the UK government at every opportunity to highlight the necessity of a significantly increased multi annual budget for agriculture. And I ask our Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon, as we asked the First Minister this week, to do the same.”