Resetting the agenda with new farms minister
‘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.’