New Year Message from NFU Scotland Chief Executive John Davidson

It has now been 6 months since joining NFU Scotland - what a brilliant, exciting, and humbling experience. 

What an amazing job our farmers and crofters are doing! Working tirelessly to produce food to the highest standards in the world - but more so, doing it in a way that takes care of our land and supports nature.

But we do not shout about all this great stuff as loudly as we should. Farming is the bedrock of Scotland’s incredible food and drink success story on the global stage. We need to be more confident in telling that story.

For 2024, we need to start talking and focusing more on profitability. Everything NFU Scotland will do in the future will have this at our core. It’s simple: if farmers don’t make money there will be no industry. 

Amongst the hundreds of issues being tackled by NFUS, I see three big overarching issues for industry. 

First, the debate between ‘food production’ v the ‘environment.’ At times, this feels tense and hostile. These shouldn’t be in conflict. Can farmers do more to contribute to the climate and biodiversity challenge? Absolutely. And they will.

But what’s clear is that the industry is not getting the recognition it deserves for the great work being done. Scotland looks how it does because in large parts to farmers and crofters. We will do more but we need to be supported to do so and see a fair return.

Secondly, we must genuinely address the deep imbalance in the supply chain. Food price in the UK is already the lowest across the EU and farmers and growers continue to be squeezed as retail and food service battle for market share. This will be a priority issue for NFU Scotland. 

Home markets, along with export markets, present huge opportunities for farmers and growers. We know consumers want more Scottish produce - recent research by show this. So, we need to keep our eye on the prize.

Thirdly, the policy and regulatory environment feels challenging. The raft of policies emerging across Governments feels daunting. We welcome policy and regulation that supports a stronger and more effective industry, but the cumulative impact is huge. I believe Scottish Government is a supporter of Scottish agriculture. It continues to provide vital support and, crucially, remains accessible to organisations like us. That said, it needs to keep listening and recognising the realities of farming in Scotland.

As for NFU Scotland itself. What an institution! Been around for 110 years, 9,000 members, an incredibly talented staff team complemented by our elected members - all committed to the cause and working tirelessly day-in-day-out.

We need to keep evolving. How we engage members and communicate needs some thought and as a business, we need to think more strategically and commercially.

One specific thing we need to give much more attention to is increasing the diversity across our membership of those involved in the Union structures. We need more females, and we need more youth - I’m looking 10 years ahead to identify our future office holders.

There is a lack of genuine focus across industry and Government on all things ‘next generation/young people.’ This will be a personal priority. In this job, it’s easy to be ‘negative.’ The industry is under huge pressure and naturally we will do our utmost to represent and defend. But we have a duty to balance this with positivity, not least to instil confidence and attract the next generation. 

Finally, we need to have national conversation about our food culture, how we value food, and recognise the importance of what our farmers do. At times, it’s taken for granted and we should never do that. 

Wishing all Scottish farmers and crofters a happy and profitable New Year.

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Michael John Munro

161 days ago

Very well said the majority of the industry is not looking to the distant future at all and the lack of profitability is severely benign masked by the fact that most farmers are receiving pensions and the business is only treading water.
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