NFU Scotland makes its pitch to politicians

FARMING and food production must remain a high priority whatever the outcome of the election, NFU Scotland stresses in its "Programme for Government", published yesterday.

Pointing out that the agri-food industry is now the UK's largest manufacturing sector, worth 10 billion to Scotland alone, the union's policy paper calls on the next government to create a policy environment that allows farming and food production to flourish.

"It is crucial that the next UK government recognises what the farming industry is already doing to secure food supplies, manage our environment and landscapes and strengthen the rural economy," the paper states. "This is being achieved against a backdrop of economic pressures in the supply chain, a burgeoning regulatory environment and the impact on the ground of climate change."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Scottish farmers, the paper claims, would prefer to secure sufficient returns from the market place without taxpayers' support.

"However, in an environment of ongoing market failure, the right system of farm support remains critical and must recognise the industry's contribution to food security, the environment and 'non-market' goods, such as animal welfare," the paper adds.

The union highlights five principles it believes should be embodied in the UK government's approach to European negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy:

• Support to be focused on productive agriculture

• The overall CAP budget to be maintained at the present level and the UK government to maintain Scotland's current allocation

• The current exclusion of new entrants to the industry and continuing payments to those no longer farming to be addressed

• An orderly transition from the historic to an area-based system of support to avoid destabilising farming businesses

• Flexibility in negotiating positions to deal with emerging issues during the reform process

On climate change, the report calls for recognition of the progress Scottish agriculture has made in reducing emissions, which are 17 per cent down since 1990 – in stark contrast to emissions from other sectors and society in general.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The strongest rhetoric is reserved for the need to appoint an ombudsman to regulate the dealings of supermarkets with their suppliers to which all the major political parties have given their commitment.

The paper states: "There is clear evidence that the dominance of the major supermarkets can lead to abuse of power to the detriment of direct suppliers, farmers and, ultimately, consumers. This has already resulted in damage to almost all food sectors.

"NFU Scotland is delighted that all the major parties have accepted a Competition Commission recommendation to establish an ombudsman to police the grocery supply chain. It is important that the momentum behind this proposal is not lost. The creation of an ombudsman will ensure fair play in the food production sector."

Related topics: