Director of Policy Jonnie Hall's Blog - 27 March 2020

These are scary and unprecedented times, but the job of farming does not stop. NFU Scotland Director of Policy Jonnie Hall looks at how the Union is continuing its day job so that farmers and crofters can continue theirs

Right now, the weather is pretty much what many have craved through months of dirty wet stuff and named storms.  

Spring work is full on – ploughing to sowing. Calving and lambing are getting into full swing, and against of a backdrop of what looks like things turning green.

The job of farming is being done. Food is being produced.  Scottish agriculture is doing its bit as it always does.

But with the clocks primed to spring forward, we find ourselves in anything but ‘normal’ times. The word ‘unprecedented’ is already well worn but remains spot on.

The situation is fluid to say the least.  What is said or done one day often changes the next.  And that applies to us all. We are all having to adapt - and adapt quickly. It is not ‘business as usual’.

In practical terms, it is the Union’s job to get key messages out so our members can respond and adapt to the situation right now - based on governments’ public health advice and instruction.

Sometimes the advice and instruction can be ambiguous. Often it must change to reflect the here and now. As a result, clarity and certainty are very scarce. At the same time, it is just as important that we do not get distracted by what might change as we go forward.

As things stand, nobody knows how this will play out.  But just as with the annual cycles of farming and crofting, certain things will happen.  

Take, for example, Common Agricultural Policy schemes to which the UK remains wedded in 2020 and on which Scottish agriculture is so dependent – maybe this year more than ever?

The fact is that at some point SGRPID will make payments. What or when that might be is unknown, but it is clear is that any payment at any point starts with the data swept up by the Single Application Form (SAF). In that sense there is nothing new.  

While accuracy of data is not a new concept in the context of the SAF, as things stand every effort must be made to submit the information that is available at the time of competing the SAF. If this information needs amended, there are already processes in place to allow this. Ultimately, it is vital that the information is available so that applications are processed and payments made.

It is also critical in these times of single imperative that any questions or issues we raise about SAF processes and the regulations and compliance surrounding schemes, or anything else for that matter, are directly in the context of COVID-19 rather than just an inherent dislike of existing requirements.

These are unprecedented times but sticking to farming and crofting’s age-old precedent of getting the job done is what we must all focus on. As I say so often, whether at work or play, “we will get there…wherever there is”.

Author: Jonnie Hall

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About The Author

Jonnie Hall

NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy Jonnie Hall has been involved with agricultural and rural policy for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (BSc. Honours in Agricultural Economics and an M.Phil. in agricultural policy research) and Oxford University (MSc. in Agricultural Economics). Following an academic and consultancy career, Jonnie joined what was the Scottish Landowners’ Federation in January 1998, leading their policy work on agriculture and land use issues. Jonnie then joined NFU Scotland in May 2007, and has overall responsibility for the policy work of NFU Scotland as Director of Policy and Member Services. He has served on all key rural and agricultural policy stakeholder groups.

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