Re­set­ting the agenda with new farms min­is­ter

The Oban Times - - Farming -

‘A POSITIVE meeting’ was how Scot­land’s farming union leader de­scribed his first for­mal en­counter with Fer­gus Ewing.

The re­cently-ap­pointed Cabi­net Sec­re­tary for Ru­ral Econ­omy and Con­nec­tiv­ity met last week with NFU Scot­land of­fi­cials, af­ter which union pres­i­dent Al­lan Bowie said: ‘His ap­point­ment comes at a hugely chal­leng­ing time for the in­dus­try. Volatile mar­kets across ev­ery sec­tor mean we have seen farm in­comes fall three years in a row and the huge prob­lems en­coun­tered by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in de­liv­er­ing new CAP sup­port cre­ated mas­sive prob­lems for Scot­land’s ru­ral econ­omy.

‘There is much un­fin­ished busi­ness. We want out­stand­ing sup­port pay­ments de­liv­ered to farm­ers and crofters be­fore the pay­ment win­dow closes in June. And we are look­ing to the cabi­net sec­re­tary and his team to en­sure we learn from the mis­takes that have been made so that they are not re­peated. It is im­por­tant that a clear timetable for fu­ture sup­port pay­ment de­liv­ery is set and ad­hered to.

‘Ac­tions and de­ci­sions taken by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment from now on should be judged on how they will im­pact on the com­pet­i­tive­ness of farm­ers. Past gold-plat­ing in­tro­duced by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment needs to be ad­dressed and we be­lieve that the cabi­net se­cre- tary will keenly con­sider the busi­ness im­pact of de­ci­sions. Farm­ers cur­rently carry the bulk of the risk in­volved in pro­duc­ing food and drink yet, as fall­ing farm in­comes show, they are strug­gling to re­ceive a fair share of the cur­rent re­wards be­ing gen­er­ated by this pros­per­ing sec­tor.

‘It is im­por­tant that, at this time of un­cer­tainty and volatil­ity in the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try, we have strong voices within the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment that look to en­sure food and drink sec­tor suc­cess con­nects back to the farm gate.

But Mr Bowie con­cluded: ‘This was a positive open­ing meeting and there is a clear un­der­stand­ing farms ex­ist pri­mar­ily to pro­duce food. We look for­ward to work­ing with him on be­half of farm­ers and crofters and to­day was an op­por­tu­nity to re­set the agenda in a way that will take for­ward farming and croft­ing in Scot­land.’

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