Livestock Committee Chairman's Blog

When I was elected as Chairman of the NFU Scotland Livestock Committee in February I was hopeful for a year that would see a positive outlook for the industry writes Jimmy Ireland.  

With sterling still weak against the euro, historically speaking, there should be opportunities for the Scottish beef sector to grow on the back of strong production credentials.

Little did I know that Brexit delays and the crash in the beef price would be standing in the way of that optimism.

It is often said that we are natural optimists and I think you couldn’t farm cattle and sheep if you weren’t, but we need to see support from the UK Government to turn our optimism to a reality.

From November 2018 to August 2019, the Scottish beef sector has seen £33 million of income wiped out by the crash in the price.

It’s been self-evident ever since the EU referendum in 2016 that the European Commission would no longer be there to support UK agriculture in the event of any crisis, and that the UK Government, along with the Scottish Government, would have to take up that mantle.

So far, we’ve seen the European Commission and the Irish Government pledge €100 million to support beef farmers in Ireland… meanwhile we’ve had something close to silence from a UK Government which was almost in denial of the situation at the Royal Highland Show.

This week, along with my counterparts from the Ulster Farmers Union, NFU and NFU Cymru, I’ve called for the UK Government to institute an emergency aid scheme for beef farmers and crofters along with additional steps to take the beef sector forward.  These actions are:

  • UK Government must examine the impact of the €100 million Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) Scheme for Irish beef farmers and must consider emergency support to UK beef producers.
  • Request the establishment of a UK-wide a livestock deficiency payment scheme.
  • UK Government needs to have complete re-think on the current Tariff Rate Quota of 230,000 tonnes. The Government must act quickly to amend the tariff policy if there is any distortion seen.
  • UK Government to look at the lack of competition in the supply chain for the UK beef sector and to expand the scope of the processor code to improve transparency and add this as a mandatory footing in the new agriculture bill.
  • UK Government to urgently review their public procurement commitments and commit to sourcing UK beef. 
  • UK Government to move rapidly to introduce country of origin labelling for all processed beef products.
  • UK Government must match fund the UK red meat levy bodies (AHDB, QMS, HCC, LMC) 
  • Ministers need to travel more to countries like China to secure better and faster market access for the beef sector.

These proposals build on the NFU Scotland campaign to #BackScotchBeef which saw President Andrew McCornick publish a six-point plan ( which identifies a range of actions which will bolster the sector in the future.

If you want to see action, I would urge you to write to your MP, to outline the case that the beef sector has lost more than £170 million of income in the last year and to call for them to do demand that the necessary action is taken.

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