THERE may be those among you who think I am going to talk about aliens and life in the outer reaches of our galaxy. If you are I am afraid that you are going to be sorely disappointed - I am still, as usual, addicted to aquaculture. On a recent Saturday night, I was privileged to meet some of the graduates from the Rural Leadership programme. This scheme encourages farmers, people working in farming or in the supply chain to come together and learn about leadership and how to innovate together.
I shall not name names for fear of missing someone out but the people were highly impressive, young and very thoughtful.
They included a dairy farmer with 600 cows, a representative from Sainsbury’s, the operations manager of several farms owned by Mr Dyson, and the guy in charge of Young Farmers (England and Wales).
None of them had encountered anyone from aquaculture and they were extremely curious about how we operated.
They had graduated together and kept in close contact, using each other’s experience, but also the trust built up, in order to discuss their ideas, plans and business issues.
They travel every year to a different venue to try to learn about that sphere of farming or food production to see how this might give insights into their own businesses.The concept is brilliant but also their commitment to each other and to the original concept is truly wonderful.
Due to the fact that I was not the designated driver and that I have a terrible weakness when offered a glass of wine (or three), I cannot remember all of the conversations. Nonetheless, there is one that stands out despite my worst attempts to rub it out.
The young man representing Young Farmers, with 25,000 members, was talking about the never ending stream of criticism of farming - how PR and the press absorbed large amounts of his work time, particularly discussing the vegan movement and its view of the world.
Please note I do not describe it as a tide of veganism, because it has risen to the heady heights that the organic movement did when everybody said that was going to take over the world.
form of food production, attacked by the misinformed or the peddlers of disinformation, regulated by those who don’t understand and a press only interested in negative stories.
By the time the evening ended we had agreed that one of the biggest issues facing rural business is that each different industry spends its time lobbying against the other.
Cohesion is sorely needed when dealing with a government that sees rural affairs as an expensive nuisance.
together and realise that we have greater similarities than we have differences.
Each industry’s political clout is so miniscule compared to most industries that we can be played off against each other.We don’t understand each other’s businesses and so we see threat where there is opportunity.
In the early days of aquaculture, overtures were made to the National Farmers Union in order for our industry to join but the NFU demurred.
“We need to become part of a vibrant and successful group of rural industries ”
It was not surprising, our industry was tiny and the revenue would have been far outweighed by the problems.
Nowadays, that can hardly be the case.We are a huge revenue stream, bigger than beef and sheep combined. If we want greater clout with government, be it Westminster or Holyrood, then we need to belong to a larger group than we do now.
This does not mean that we need to suborn our needs to the needs of others but that we need to have more weight on our side of the argument.
As a small spacecraft called Voyager II goes further and further outside our solar system are not alone, our industry must discover this in our small dot in the universe. We need to become part of a vibrant and successful group of rural industries with the combined weight to achieve the regulation and recognition we merit.