Alan Laidlaw: Big challenges face farmers and countryside industries,

The agriculture industry is going through a challenging time. According to the Met Office, this was the hottest summer on record, and its impacts are being felt the length and breadth of the country.

Alan Laidlaw, Chief Executive of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland
Alan Laidlaw, Chief Executive of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland

With crop yields dipping due to drought and severely reduced grass growth it confirms concerns that there will be a shortage of feed for livestock and dairy farmers later in the year. This will inevitability drive the cost of food up for the consumer. According to the Associated British Foods (ABF), the cost of bread is forecast to rise as the dry months pushed the price of wheat up by 25 per cent since January.

As well as the dry weather across the country, our rural industries are facing a shortage of seasonal workers, many of whom are non-EU nationals. Put off coming to our shores by the uncertainty caused by Brexit and the weak currency, this has meant that some fruit and 
vegetables have been left unpicked. The new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme launched recently will give the go-ahead to recruit up to 2,500 workers from overseas may bring some hope for growers, however, for many, it is too late for this year’s harvest.

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Farming charities across the country have raised concerns regarding the relentless pressure rural industries are facing and its impact on the mental and physical well-being of our producers.

Right now, these issues are fresh in our minds, and as we battle with these challenges, it is important to reflect on what is happening in our rural sector across the globe. In Scotland we are not alone and we have links to those further-a-field who have had to grapple with similar challenges such as drought and weather impacts on life.

RHASS supports lifelong learning and development and to allow our people to become more responsive in the face of adversity. One way of doing this is by providing an open learning environment to explore the latest technologies and introduce different ways of thinking to allow us to view setbacks as opportunities learn, develop or innovate.

A man who knows better than most how sustained setbacks can impact, not only farming businesses but the resilience of the farmers who battle against them is Doug Avery, a New Zealand farmer and author of The Resilient Farmer.

RHASS is delighted to work with our partners RSABI to facilitate a series of free talks on “Drought, Adversity and Breaking New Ground” across all of Scotland from now until 7 October 2018. As someone who has overcome severe drought and earthquakes, which debilitated Doug and his business, triggering mental health challenges, a lot of people in Scotland’s rural communities will be able to relate to his story. He will discuss the key issues that affected him and how he had to look differently, change his views and learn how to overcome adversity, develop resilience and move his business and life forward.

The talks are free and open to anyone interested in his story of adversity and those considering a change in mindset to address their own challenges related to business or personal life. I encourage anyone interested to come along and be open to new ways of thinking that could help you to look at yourself or business differently.

Events are free, but ticketed due to venue restrictions, so must be pre-booked. For a full list of dates and to book visit Laidlaw, Chief Executive of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland