Tied in knots by a plethora of policies

NFU Scotland has called on rural policymakers, agricultural advisers and researchers to play their part in co-ordinating the plethora of policies being directed at Scotland's farmers into simple, clear and concise messages.

Speaking in Edinburgh, NFUS head of rural policy Jonnie Hall said farmers were increasingly bogged down by the policy demands made of them and that it was becoming more difficult to get on with the real job of farming and producing food.

Hall said: "The reality of farming in Scotland is that decision-making at farm level is too often driven by the need to meet policy demands rather than responding to market signals.

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"If we want farmers to provide a safe, local supply of food, preserve our countryside, support local communities and underpin associated industries then we need a more co-ordinated policy framework that allows that to happen rather than tie it up in knots.

"A quick scan of the paperwork lying on a farmer's desk could see that business having to tackle the bureaucracy related to items such as Single Farm Payments, cross-compliance, LFA support, pollution prevention, nitrates, rural development schemes, waste regulations, and the list goes on.

"When you throw into the mix the demands on the farming industry to play a part in delivering on the environment, biodiversity, climate change, forestry, a national food policy, flood risk management and a soils strategy, then suddenly there are umpteen expectations on farmers, some of which are clearly conflicting.

"There is such a raft of policy drivers being directed towards the industry at this time that it is almost impossible for any individual farmer to know exactly what is being asked of them. We have limited resources at the disposal of Scottish Agriculture PLC and we need to recognise that farmers still have to make a living from farming and producing food. Under the current weight of policy expectation, something has got to give.

"The challenge for policymakers, researchers and advisers is to drive a much greater degree of simplicity and coherence into policymaking in the future so farmers more readily know what is expected.

"Where there is conflict across policies, such as the food production versus forestry debate, then there has to be recognition there needs to be a trade-off or a compromise position."