Tar­iff-free ac­cess is vi­tal for agri­cul­ture

A New Year mes­sage from SCOTT WALKER, NFUS chief ex­ec­u­tive

The Oban Times - - Farming -

WITH prices for vir­tu­ally ev­ery farm com­mod­ity on the floor and hav­ing en­dured the wettest win­ter on record, Scot­tish farm­ers and crofters faced a cash cri­sis com­pounded by Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to de­liver sup­port pay­ments.

While farm­ers and crofters may be re­cip­i­ents of sup­port, that money very quickly leaves bank ac­counts to pay wages, in­vest in busi­nesses and se­cure the ser­vices, feed, seed, fer­tiliser and ma­chin­ery needed to en­sure Scot­land con­tin­ues to grow and rear the raw ma­te­ri­als for our food and drink sec­tor.

Our strength as an or­gan­i­sa­tion, rep­re­sent­ing farm­ing, croft­ing and pro­fes­sional busi­nesses, pushed the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to de­liver three na­tional pay­ment schemes over the course of the year by­pass­ing its flawed IT sys­tem and de­liv­er­ing much-needed money to the in­dus­try.

It was the per­sis­tence of NFU Scot­land that got the loan schemes in­tro­duced and se­cured much-needed fund­ing for farm­ers and crofters and the wider ru­ral econ­omy. And it is NFU Scot­land which will con­tinue to pres­sure the gov­ern­ment un­til its IT sys­tem is made to work.

I thank all our mem­bers, of­fice-hold­ers, sec­re­taries and staff for their sup­port in the past year. A strong mem­ber­ship backed up by a ro­bust or­gan­i­sa­tion makes a dif­fer­ence in both po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial terms.

It is what en­ables us to rep­re­sent Scot­tish agri­cul­ture and en­sure our views are taken into ac­count when key de­ci­sions are made – an im­por­tant point when there are lots of oth­ers out there who don’t have our in­ter­ests at heart.

The strong sup­port of farm­ers and crofters also al­lows us to in­flu­ence the mar­kets in which we op­er­ate. In the past year, our lob­by­ing se­cured a sig­nif­i­cant lift in the vol­ume of Scot­tish lamb now be­ing sold in Scot­tish stores on a year-round ba­sis and we have had a role in get­ting milk repo­si­tioned among soft drinks on sand­wich coun­ters in some su­per­mar­kets – these are mod­els that will be used to ben­e­fit other sec­tors.

We con­tinue to high­light mar­ket dom­i­nance and abuse where it oc­curs. Food and drink man­u­fac­tur­ers do, and should con­tinue to, sell them­selves on Scot­tish cre­den­tials, and we will keep press­ing them to source more of their raw ma­te­ri­als in Scot­land and that a fair and eq­ui­table share of risk and re­turns are spread across all in the sup­ply chain.

No sec­tor will be more di­rectly af­fected by the EU ref­er­en­dum in June than ours. For 43 years, the CAP has sup­ported agri­cul­ture and Europe has de­ter­mined the ma­jor­ity of the rules and reg­u­la­tions by which our in­dus­try op­er­ates.

NFUS will make the most of the op­por­tu­nity that Brexit marks for Scot­tish agri­cul­ture. The role of the union in rep­re­sent­ing our mem­bers’ views and pro­tect­ing their in­ter­ests will rarely have been more im­por­tant in our 104-year his­tory.

In the ne­go­ti­a­tions on Brexit, we will en­sure that Scot­tish agri­cul­ture is cen­tral to talks on the fu­ture shape of agri­cul­tural pol­icy, the ba­sis for sup­port, ac­cess to EU and world mar­kets and ac­cess to non-UK labour.

And we will work with fel­low unions and like-minded or­gan­i­sa­tions and com­pa­nies to se­cure these pri­or­i­ties.

It is a strat­egy that has al­ready seen NFU Scot­land join other unions in pulling to­gether the largest- ever coali­tion of com­pa­nies and or­gan­i­sa­tions from the UK food chain. Our let­ter was signed by food pro­duc­ers, pro­ces­sors and man­u­fac­tur­ers which em­ploy nearly a mil­lion peo­ple with a turnover of £92 bil­lion.

To­gether, we called for tar­iff-free ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket and con­tin­ued ac­cess to a com­pe­tent and re­li­able work­force.

This is para­mount for food and farm­ing to flour­ish, post-Brexit, and se­cur­ing it will com­mand NFU Scot­land’s ab­so­lute com­mit­ment and re­sources in 2017.

Scott Walker says no sec­tor will be more di­rectly af­fected by the EU ref­er­en­dum than farm­ing.

Scott Walker.

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