NFU Scotland maps out its top post-Brexit priorities

While the threats and uncertainty of Brexit have been widely highlighted in recent months, the opportunities offered to streamline some of the current bureaucratic burden borne by farmers was put in the spotlight yesterday.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick called for 'more carrot and less stick'. Picture: ContributedNFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick called for 'more carrot and less stick'. Picture: Contributed
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick called for 'more carrot and less stick'. Picture: Contributed

And mapping out its priorities for legislative change which could ease this burden, NFU Scotland called for changes which would protect the supply chain, introduce proportionality in the areas of penalties, mapping and record keeping – and see legislative decisions based on actual risk rather than perceived “hazard”.

• READ MORE: Farming news

Accepting that there would still have to be a broad harmonisation with the regulatory regime in Europe for trade to continue, union president Andrew McCornick said: “We aren’t looking for a huge bonfire of legislation here, what we’re calling for is a tidying up at the edges and a reduction in some of the rules which are ill-fitted to the situation in Scotland but which, under the current regime, still have to be complied with.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said that a number of these changes would also make sense for the UK and Scottish governments, which often found themselves “tied in knots” trying to enforce needlessly complex and confusing rules and regulations.

“A successful approach to delivering regulation would involve more carrot and less stick, a yellow card warning system for unintentional breaches and encouragement for farmers to do what they do best – providing a safe and affordable supply of food,” said McCornick.

Launching a major document highlighting where and how these changes could be made, McCornick listed some of the areas in the union’s sights.

He said that the three-crop rule was a blunt instrument which did little for the environment in Scotland’s already patchwork of different fields and crops yet often restricted farmers’ ability to grow for specific markets.

Sheep EID regulations, the rules on disposal of fallen stock, NVZs, carcase splitting and the way in which plant protection products were judged safe were, he said, other examples of where change could easily be introduced with no negative effects.

McCornick said that the union would be “pushing at every door” to get these changes taken on board.

“With little in the way of leadership being shown by the politicians, the union wants to be at the forefront in developing the way forward – and we will be speaking with both the UK and Scottish governments,” he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Union chief executive Scott Walker said that while the current argument over where future policy should be made raged amidst accusations of power grabs, the union was clear that the current controls which rested with the Scottish Government should remain there – adding that there was no way a “Defra-centric” settlement would suit Scotland.

“As an example, in previous UK-wide animal health discussions in the past, despite input from Scotland, Defra claimed that bovine TB and badgers was the most important issue,” Walker said.

“While that might have been true for England and Wales, it just isn’t an issue for us in Scotland – and we need to be able to address the areas which are important to us.”

Fury over fertiliser price hikes

As the 2018 cereal and oilseed crops begin to go in the ground, eyes are turning to the fertiliser market where prices have been on the rise, writes Andrew Arbuckle.

The UK position is complicated by the weakness of sterling against the euro which, according to Calum Findlay, fertiliser manager for merchants Gleadell, currently means the price for ammonium nitrate in the UK is running at a £20 per tonne discount to Europe.

Against a background of a shortage in product and rising prices in Europe, he warns: “There is plenty of scope for these prices to move higher still, and current offers represent excellent value for money.”

Meanwhile the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has once again raised its opposition to recent price rises for nitrogen fertiliser introduced by Europe’s dominant supplier, Yara, saying they are “totally unjustified”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

According to the IFA’s John Coughlan: “The latest moves by Yara to hike ammonium nitrate prices at the beginning of the new fertiliser season clearly demonstrate that the EU fertiliser market is dysfunctional due to a lack of any meaningful competition.”

He called on the European Commission to suspend anti-dumping duties on the imports of ammonium nitrate from Russia and, as a further step, remove customs tariffs on the imports of non-EU fertilisers into the EU.

“IFA, along with a number of other EU farming organisation, have submitted copious data showing that EU fertiliser prices are among the highest in the world due to a lack of real competition on the internal market. This is due in large part to anti-dumping duties and customs tariffs.”