And as they set off, the three candidates standing for the position of president today outline why they should be elected to lead the union through what is likely to be one of the most important periods in its 104-year history.
Allan Bowie, elected president in 2015, farms in Clackmannanshire with wife Christine and son Callum, growing mainly cereals on 1,000 acres under contract agreements.
Bowie, who is coming to the end of his first two-year term as president, said that during his office the Scottish Government had been held to account over its failure to deliver farm support, and that three vital loan packages worth in excess of £500 million had been delivered to the rural economy as a result of the union’s lobbying.
He said: “There will be challenges ahead to work for the right deal and policies for Scottish agriculture as Brexit edges closer and I want to be at the forefront of those discussions, leading our industry.
“I want to continue my leadership role over the next two years and relish the chance to continue the work I have already been involved in since that landmark vote as well as addressing the daily issues impacting on farmers’ businesses.”
Bowie said that he felt this unfinished work would benefit from his experience gained in office, and hoped his track record would speak for itself.
“I have total respect for the wishes of the membership and the importance of the union going forward. I will continue to fight for a profitable Scottish agriculture, harness the drive, passion and enthusiasm in our industry and to keep pressing the message that farming and food production matters.”
Rob Livesey, elected vice-president in 2013, is married with two sons. He farms Firth Farm near Lilliesleaf in the Scottish Borders with 1,100 mules ewes, 80 Salers cows and 125 acres of cereals on 600 tenanted acres, with 200 acres rented nearby.
He said a strong union team would be required to secure the best deal for Scottish agriculture over the years of Brexit negotiations – and he was keen to ensure that was achieved.
Expressing a desire to keep the industry united and drive the union’s priorities on Brexit forward, he said: “It’s imperative that we engage and persuade a far wider spread of the public, politicians, non-government organisations and stakeholders of the value and importance of our fantastic industry.”
Livesey said his experience in many areas of the union had given him insight into the whole industry, adding: “This has given me a sound knowledge of various sectors, issues and policy areas, as well as [having] real-life hands-on experience of the challenges farming faces daily through my work as both a farm manager and a farmer in my own right.
“If elected, I will work with the vice-presidents, and the whole of the NFU Scotland team, to keep the momentum going, and provide direct, strong and honest leadership.”
Andrew McCornick, elected vice-president in 2015, is married with three sons and a daughter. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230 hectare unit in Dumfries with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes, with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle.
He said that during his long association with the union he had demonstrated an ability to listen, understand, and communicate complex issues grounded by extensive practical knowledge.
He said: “As someone who thrives on challenges and getting the most from everything, this approach will be crucial in driving forward our policy.”
Regarding Brexit, McCornick said his priorities would be to push for access to the single market allowing farmers to trade freely; to obtain greater certainty over funding and to press for regulation which did not stifle and was proportionate and fair.
“We also need fair prices with accountability and transparency from retailer up to producer, integrating contracts, volatility protection, marketing, codes of practice, grocery adjudicator, and collaboration right across the supply chain.”
McCornick added that environmental policy should be less prescriptive and fit for Scotland’s diverse landscape, and that new entrants and young farmers needed realistic financial and advisory support. He also said land reform legislation should give long-term confidence to the sector.
“All this and more, will allow us to achieve a profitable sustainable Scottish agricultural industry.”