Food security task force plans need urgent government action
Welcoming the Scottish Government’s recognition of food security as a critical issue, NFU Scotland’s chief executive Scott Walker said that while the group was identifying both long and short term threats, the latter required urgent action.
Earlier in the week the union had drawn up a list of key issues which it claimed would help maintain output on Scotland’s farms during the current round of challenges.
Stating that while the focus remained on supporting Ukraine, the union said that the region’s importance to global agriculture meant challenging economic times on a world scale – and Scotland’s farmers and crofters wanted to address the growing concerns around future food security at home.
“Inflationary pressures and market volatility have been building and have reached exceptional levels. The Union believes that maintaining stability so that businesses maintain their capacity to produce food must be a priority for governments and the supply chain,” said Walker.
“Whatever this group identifies, we need action from the government on its recommendations.”
But while a number of the issues on NFU Scotland’s wish-list drawn up earlier in the week were for matters reserved to Westminster – such as the removal of duty on red diesel and an expansion of the seasonal workers scheme – others were in power of the Scottish Government to grant.
This included the easing of some of the rules on fallow and other land which could not be planted due to the restrictions of the Ecological Focus Area Scheme.
The urgent rolling out the proposed ‘Track 1’ of the National Test Programme and the introduction of soil testing and nutrient management planning to enable all farmers and crofters to target and use inputs more efficiently were also viewed as a key factors.
The administration was also asked to increase funding of the Sustainable Agricultural Capital Grant Scheme and for an impact assessment on food production to be a requirement before large-scale forestry grants were approved.
But Walker said that while the short-life taskforce was expected to draw together its recommendations within the next six weeks, with spring sowing already on the starting blocks, measures such as the changes to EFA regulations would need to be introduced well ahead of that to be of any help.
However, when asked before yesterday’s meeting if such changes were likely, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This government is clear in its commitment to supporting farmers and crofters to produce more of our food more sustainably. Nevertheless it is important that we maintain, and enhance nature and not scale back our efforts. This will ultimately help make our food system more resilient - that is why it is essential that we keep the measures we do have and enhance them where possible.
But the spokesperson added that the administration would work with industry to promote the flexibility within the Greening rules for farmers to apply them according to their own circumstances.
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