Fergus Ewing , Rural Economy Secretary in the Scottish Government has welcomed a report which outlines changes which it feels will have to take place in Scotland’s farming and crofting sector because of the impact of Brexit.
Fergus Ewing said:
“Scottish farming is about to enter the biggest period of upheaval in a generation due to Brexit, which will require government, industry and businesses to adapt and change so that our farming remains vibrant, resilient, and profitable.”
Last year four agricultural ‘champions’ were appointed by the Scottish Government. They are: Henry Graham (Scottish Chair of Lantra), Archie Gibson (Chair of Scottish Food and Drink Federation), John Kinnaird (Farmer and former President of NFUS), and Marion MacCormick (former Buying Director for ALDI).
The document:A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture: Final Report by the Scottish Government’s Agriculture Champions states that “no change is not an option.”
The report looks at farming in a wider context as part of an eco system and its interrelation with food.
“Government, parliament, industry and others must cooperate on a 10-15 year strategy for Scottish farming including the transition from the current support system. All must work together to get the best outcomes, facing up to harsh realities.”
It recommends that the public becomes more informed about food production and farming. It also feels that farm support “is not a right”. Farmers and crofters need to be more “more progressive, entrepreneurial and resilient in a way that is already the culture in the unsupported sectors.”
For this to happen it wants a transition period of between 3 and 5 years.
“We recommend that government cap payments and release money so that new policies and schemes can be trialled and evaluated during the transition period with adequate funding.”
It wants to encourage younger people into farming who would see it as a good career choice. Teachers should have additional training so that they can advise students of farming as a career and more should be done at schools to encourage it.
“To address the age demographic of Scottish farming, existing new entrant initiatives such as Farming Opportunities for New Entrants, the Farm Advisory Service’s New Entrant Programme and the SRDP new entrant grants and establishment grants must be continued with and built upon.” Also included is a desire to see a relaxation in planning for rural areas to increase housing.
The report also wants to see not just farming of our land but an increase in forestation for commercial purposes and of farmed deer.
To save money farmers and crofters are asked to collaborate for purchases: everything from fuel to medicines.
Commenting Fergus Ewing said:
“I endorse the findings that support based on activity and production should be retained to an extent, but there should be a major new focus on increasing productivity. To support this, we need to better link research and development with on farm practice, encouraging businesses to collaborate, become more entrepreneurial, and do more to attract people to the sector.
“I thank the four champions for producing this comprehensive report, which will feed directly into my thinking on developing a future farming strategy for the years to come.”
Reporter: Fiona Grahame