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Vice President's Blog 11 July 2017

Food has been taken for granted in the UK for far too long, writes NFU Scotland Vice President in his latest blog.

There has been a lot of talk recently about how the future of agriculture will fare in Scotland, and indeed the whole of the UK post-Brexit. I believe that both farming and crofting has a very positive future if the people who take the decisions have the political will to listen to the industry.

Alternatively, if this is not the case then I fear that the lack of political will is not going to be our only problem. Farmers and crofters will lose the will to do the job they are good at because of such little return, severely endangering food security and our precious environment.

We still get questioned on a regular basis about the need for support in what we do. There is now a greater need for support than there ever has been particularly in the hill livestock sector but equally in other parts of the industry.

The reason for this is because in real terms food is still far too cheap relative to its cost of production. If food had risen at the same inflation rate as house prices over the last 40 years then a four-pint carton of milk would cost £10.45, a roast chicken would be £51.18, a loaf of white bread would be £4.36 and a leg of lamb would cost you £53.18.

At these prices I couldn't agree more that future support for agriculture is not required but unfortunately this is not where we are.

In 1974, you could buy a new Ford 5000 tractor for around £2,300 which 30 tonnes of barley would easily pay for. Now 600 tonnes of barley wouldn't even look at the price of an equivalent tractor.

We now only spend eight per cent of our income on food instead of 40 per cent. Food really has been taken for granted for far too long.

Yes, Scottish farmers and crofters receive around half a billion pounds worth of support each year but no one ever mentions the £2.8 billion we spend on our businesses to keep them going, this money keeps the supply industry going and is vital to the rural economy - that's a huge return on investment.  

Scotland's food and drink sector is worth over £14 billion to the Scottish economy with ambitious targets to reach £30 billion by 2030. That's all very well, but unless we can see a bit more recognition for what we are doing for the economy and the environment then these ambitious targets will only be a pipe dream.

Agriculture is facing crisis and unless farmers and crofters either receive much more for their products, or are supported to at least the current level, then the whole of the UK will become reliant on imported food.  The result of this would be that we have no food security and no ability to feed our own country.  Instead we would become totally reliant on others selling to us and the standards that others set for their food production.

At the Royal Highland Show this year, as our President highlighted in his last blog, NFU Scotland launched CHANGE - a discussion document, A New Agricultural Policy for Scotland Post-Brexit.

This document has the potential to create the correct environment for this industry to prosper, and to also create the correct environment to allow the next generation to get involved and take the industry forward by being even more innovative and efficient. This document broadly covers pretty much everything that is required to get the industry on the right track. We will be going around the country throughout this year filling out the detail, taking on board what our members’ views are on it to tweak a new policy direction that will ideally be beneficial to all.

It is absolutely vital that those in the position of making decisions over the next two years listen to the people who understand what happens on the ground as these decisions will ultimately shape the future of agriculture and the rural economy post-Brexit. NFU Scotland will be doing all it possibly can to influence and shape these decisions.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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Andrew Moir

130 days ago

Thanks Martin, good clear stats that our customers can understand. Also need for recognition that we are custodians of this green and pleasant land, benefiting tourism, wildlife and environment.
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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is married with three daughters and farms with his wife Jane in Highland Perthshire on a hill farm rising to 2,500ft. They have 600 breeding ewes, 30 continental cows and 30 Highlanders. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch President, he first represented East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009 before being elected as Vice Chairman for three years. He is currently serving his second year as Chairman. He is a past chairman of Aberfeldy Show and Highland Games, a post he held for six years.

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