2018 has been a poor year for agricultural production with the exception of the soft fruit industry.
The weather affected crops and there was a scarcity of feed for cattle and sheep. First Batch of Loans Payments to Farmers & Crofters
80% of Scotland’s land is used for agriculture = 6.2million hectares. Within that 86% is designated as a ‘Less Favoured Area’.
The EU designates areas as ‘less favoured‘ to support farming where production conditions are difficult.
Despite this Scotland produces high quality meat and lamb. Due to the wet and cold Spring lambing was affected in 2018. It also meant that cattle had to be kept longer inside than would be usual meaning more feed was used.
Cattle numbers, on a steady decline, are now at a 60 year all time low at 1.76 million. Sheep numbers also fell by 6% to 6.5 million. There were record lows in the production of Scottish lamb due to that poor Spring.
Barley, Scotland’s biggest crop, fell in production as did all the other crops.
More land was taken up with producing feed suitable for animals with a fall in vegetables being grown for human consumption.
70% of Scotland’s soft fruits are grown in poly tunnels (or something similar) and the production of Strawberries rose by 7%.
Worryingly for the future of our rural and island communities is that the number of people employed in agriculture fell dramatically by 400 to 66,600. Most of those working in farming either own or (decreasingly) rent the farm.
UK Agricultural Bill
On Wednesday 10th of October the second reading of a UK Agricultural Bill took place in the House of Commons. It is putting in place arrangements for when the UK leaves the EU on 29th of March 2019. The UK Government is currently challenging, in the Supreme Court, the decision by the Scottish Parliament to pass a Continuity Bill which would see Scotland retain decision making over agriculture. Continuity Bills Passed in Scottish and Welsh Parliaments
Earlier on this year Michael Gove, the UK Defra Secretary was forced to admit that a top up of £160 million from the EU that was designated for Scottish Upland Hill farmers had instead gone to other parts of the UK.
During the Agriculture debate Michael Gove assured MPs that agricultural funding will not be Barnettised post-Brexit . In fact he guaranteed it , referring to the generous subsidies already received by farmers in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland.
This statement was welcomed by David Mundell, the Secretary of State for the UK Government in Scotland. He said:
“This is great news for Scottish farmers. Under the present arrangements, Scotland receives twice as much money for farming support than might be expected were the Barnett formula alone used to determine allocations. So Michael Gove’s commitment that future agriculture funding will not be Barnettised should be welcomed across the board.
“More details of future support arrangements will be announced shortly but this latest guarantee reinforces our commitment to Scottish farmers. It comes with the UK Government already having agreed to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support for Scotland until 2022.
“I remain concerned that the Scottish Government is keeping Scottish farmers in the dark about its plans for the future of agriculture. Farmers in Scotland need the same reassurance that the UK Agriculture Bill is giving those in England and Wales and time is running out for the Scottish Government to act.”
One of the concerns for many people is if Scotland is opened up to GM crops after Brexit.
“The Scottish Government is opposed to the cultivation of GM crops. The cultivation of GM crops could damage Scotland’s rich environment and would threaten our reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. It would damage Scotland’s image as a land of food and drink.” Scottish Government Policy on Genetically Modified (GM) Crops
The UK Agricultural Bill will see significant changes taking place for the farming industry. The EU set standards of food production that ensured food safety. Many products even having protected named status which has become a trusted brand with consumers. The Continuity Bill passed overwhelmingly in the Scottish Parliament would have seen those standards being maintained. When the UK leaves the EU it will seek trade deals with countries outside of the 27 nation free trade area of Europe. This will open the UK up to the lower standards in food production and safety from countries like the US.
In September of this year the UK Government appointed David Rutley MP as Food Supplies Minister. In the 20th century a Minister for Food was appointed firstly 1916 – 1921 (due to the First World War) and secondly 1939 – 1958 (due to the Second World War). David Rutley’s appointment is due to growing fears of sufficient food supplies being available once the UK exits the EU on 29th March 2019.
You can read the full report on Scotland’s Agriculture here: Results from the June 2018 Scottish Agricultural Census
Reporter: Fiona Grahame