Tariff-free access is vital for agriculture
A New Year message from SCOTT WALKER, NFUS chief executive
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.