Refocus farm policy on food security, says NFU Scotland

Future agricultural policy must focus on food security with direct support retained, in a turbulent global political climate, NFU Scotland said.

The union has just completed a 12-stop tour of Scotland to discuss the Scottish Government’s upcoming consultation on the future direction of farm support.

Jonnie Hall, head of rural policy for NFU Scotland (NFUS), pointed out that members were concerned that the political climate had changed dramatically, not just in the six years since Brexit, but in the last six months with the war in Ukraine.

“The already soaring prices of feed, fuel and fertilizers at the start of the year were much aggravated by the war in Ukraine,” he said.

“The impact of the conflict on the food supply has highlighted vulnerabilities in the supply chain and should serve as a wake-up call to UK governments.”

See also: NFU Scotland calls for urgent action on future farm policy

NFUS meetings have covered all types of production, from soft fruit and arable crop growers to lowland dairy and extensive hill and mountain ranching.

“Across the board, we’ve heard concerns that Scotland could follow the English model of phasing out payments that support food production,” Mr Hall said.

“With 85% of land in Scotland designated as Less Favored Areas (LFA), the English approach would be disastrous for food production here and for the Scottish economy,” he added.

Direct payments

Unlike England, the Scottish government has maintained direct payments for vulnerable production systems through the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme and the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme.

Mr Hall said the union and its members are united in calling for continued direct support to ensure that actively managed farming practices that produce food continue.

Without this kind of support, agriculture will no longer be possible on large tracts of land and national food security will be eroded, Hall warned.

“The reduction in Scottish and British agricultural production will put us at the mercy of global political change. And it will delocalize control of climate, animal welfare and food quality,” he said.

Dual purpose

But there was a strong belief north of the border that the twin goals of environmental sustainability and food production could be achieved.

“We understand that the CAP is imperfect and needs to change. But we believe that a simpler framework, less costly for the government to administer and still allowing farmers to benefit from a flexible support system, would benefit everyone.

“There’s a huge opportunity that if we take the approach here, we could see agriculture and the natural environment thrive,” Hall said.

Mr Hall encouraged farmers to continue to voice their views, concerns and suggestions on future support ahead of the Scottish Government consultation, which opens later this summer.

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