Scotland's Farming Union Celebrates 100 Years
Forfar Pair take Membership Flame honour at Union AGM
NFU Scotland’s top official Scott Walker chose the Union’s Centenary AGM and annual dinner in St Andrews today (11 February) to recognise the growing political influence that the Union has developed since its inception in 1913.
In his address in front of more than 200 delegates, Mr Walker said that the fact the Union’s lobbying stretches across Parliaments at Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels is reflected in the high level politicians attracted to speak at the event. Mr Walker also highlighted the tremendous loyalty to NFU Scotland shown by members, putting the organisation on a solid financial footing and allowing him to freeze subscription rates in its Centenary year.
Providing members with the right information remains an important part of the Union’s successful approach to recruitment and retention of members. This year, the Membership Flame – an award that recognises outstanding efforts in this area - has gone to the Forfar secretaries Rob Beatty and Jeremy Parker. This young duo has shown enthusiasm and verve in re-energising their local branch.
Speaking at the AGM, Scott Walker said:
“A century ago, a group of farmers from the west of Scotland met in Glasgow with a vision of giving Scottish farmers a unified voice. From that meeting NFU Scotland was born and for the past 100 years we have provided a strong and credible voice for the farmers, crofters and growers of Scotland.
“Our agenda has always been driven by the political issues of the time. Politics and farming have never been far apart and the continuing influence of politics on farming is reflected in the political line-up of MPs, MSPs and MEPs at this event.
“Political influence has changed over the years and we have adapted and changed along with it. For much of our early history the issue of food security drove agricultural policy in the UK. Two world wars and rationing meant that successive Governments encouraged farmers to produce more and in negotiations between the Ministry of Agriculture we had a role to play in fixing the support price to be paid for each agricultural product.
“We may no longer sit down with Government to determine prices but we do push, encourage and lobby Government to make the market fairer and more transparent. The appointment of the inaugural Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, is the result of many years of hard work that first got us a well-meaning Groceries Code and has now gotten us some teeth in an Adjudicator who will force compliance with it.
“NFU Scotland members, particularly the delegations from our milk committee who lobbied Westminster and Holyrood in 2004, calling for a retail ombudsman, can take some well deserved credit that their lobbying activity is finally on the cusp of delivering.
“We continue to work hard for our members and the Union’s financial position is sound. Key to that is the voluntary decisions taken each year by a member to pay us a subscription. Their support has allowed me to freeze subscription rates in our Centenary year so that they remain at the same level as they were in 2012.
“We take nothing for granted. Our banking and wet weather surveys, carried out in autumn and winter last year, underlined how difficult a year 2012 was financially for many of our members. These difficulties continue for many with market returns in many sectors falling short when it comes to the bills for feed, fertiliser or seed to be paid this winter.
“Despite these difficulties, during our recruitment week in late October, we joined 57 new members. And during the whole of 2012 we recruited 315 members.
“NFU Scotland generates huge levels of loyalty, not just amongst members but staff as well. This year, a number of long serving group secretaries are to retire. Secretaries Tom Sayles in Caithness, Colin High in Highland and Ewan MacInnes in the North East have, between them, worked more than 70 years for NFU Scotland. But it is good to know that newer group secretaries are just as enthusiastic and committed to the Union as the old guard.
“This year, the Membership Flame goes to a new team of Rob Beatty and Jeremy Parker in the Forfar office who have not been in place long but have already made their mark. They have set up focused monitor meetings, been involved in talks about a new abattoir for the area and have got their branch more active with specialised business focussed meetings. That has brought its reward with new members in the Angus region.”
Notes to Editors
- NFU Scotland’s Centenary AGM and Dinner are taking place at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews today (11 February) and tomorrow (12 February). Speakers include Defra Minister for food and farming David Heath; Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore; Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond will address a drinks reception tonight (11 February).
- Former NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren started an award in 2011 called the Membership Flame. It is given each year to recognise those who have made significant progress in securing subscription income. The 2011 winners were Dumfries and Galloway Region and in 2012 the award went to North East Region.
- A photograph of Scott Walker speaking at the AGM and the Forfar secretaries Rob Beatty and Jeremy Parker receiving the Membership Flame will be available after 5.00pm on Monday, 11 February.
Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006
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